HE TOUCHED HER on her face. She has since washed her face several times. "Still not able to get rid of it,” she wrote. That’s how deep the stench of an unwanted touch goes. That’s how stupid even a resident of a Raj Bhawan can be.
Such a sweet old man is Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit that when a woman journalist asked him a question at the end of a press conference, he extended his hand and touched her cheeks, patting her so lovingly, a beatific smile on his face.
The journalist did what a journalist is supposed to do: she put up the picture of the gubernatorial behaviour towards young women on social media. Complete with the picture, smile intact.
Now, when all hell broke loose, His Excellency has apologised. In writing.
For the governor, it was "grandfatherly attitude.” For her, she could not be any more clearer: "You are wrong.”
The woman journalist put up the picture of the governor touching her cheek on social media. For him, it was "grandfatherly attitude.” For her: "You are wrong.”
Lakshmi Subramaniam, who had asked the question at Madurai Kamaraj University, has accepted Banwarilal Purohit’s apology but said she was "not convinced” that all that His Patting Excellency was doing was appreciating the inherent brilliance of the question that she had asked.
She, in fact, had called Purohit’s behaviour "unprofessional”, and told the world on Twitter to say it was "completely uncalled for the guv to touch a stranger without her consent, especially a woman.” She had even sent him an e-mail voicing her discomfort.
Now, His Excellency The Cheek Patting Governor has put the gubernatorial seal with India’s national emblem of four lions, with only three visible, to a rather rare use. It embellishes his apology letter to the journalist. Surely, that’s a purpose to which gubernatorial stationery had not been put to use so far in independent India.
On Tuesday, Governor Purohit was at a press conference about a sex scandal. He needed to clear his name in a sex-for-degrees scandal in which a woman professor has been arrested. The woman professor is heard telling four girl students in the video to be ready to perform secret services for some high and mighty in exchange for good academic marks and money transfer to their bank accounts. That audio clip went viral, and the Cheek Patting Governor’s name also figured in that clip.
At the end of the presser, Governor Purohit opted to trigger a new row by patting the woman scribe. Consent is not something he cared for particularly.
The incident took place when the 78-year-old Governor was about to leave the venue of the crowded press conference at the Raj Bhavan.
The woman journalist, who works with The Week, recalled the encounter on Twitter: "I asked TN Governor Banwarilal Purohit a question as his press conference was ending. He decided to patronisingly - and without consent - pat me on the cheek as a reply."
Calling it unprofessional behaviour, the journalist, Lakshmi Subramanian, said it was completely uncalled for to touch a stranger without consent.
Governor Purohit was at a press conference about a sex scandal and wanted to clear his name, bandied about in the audio clip, in which a woman professor told four girls to perform "secret services” in exchange for marks and money.
"This, moments after he dismissed a barrage of questions about allegations of sexual misconduct against himself. Unprofessional behaviour - and completely uncalled for to touch a stranger without her consent, especially a woman," she tweeted.
Tamil Nadu's opposition party, the DMK, said the incident was "unbecoming" of a person holding a Constitutional post.
DMK Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi tweeted "even if the intention is above suspicion, a person who holds a public office has to understand that there is a decorum to it and violating a woman journalist's personal space does not reflect the dignity or the respect which should be shown to any human being."
"It is not only unfortunate, but unbecoming of a person holding a constitutional post," DMK Working President MK Stalin said on Twitter.
The Governor had held the press conference after a Nirmala Devi, professor at Devanga Arts College accused of making tacit requests for sexual favours to her students on behalf of officials of the Madurai Kamaraj University, had claimed she knows the Governor, who is the chancellor of the university.
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