Friday, January 27, 2017

Activists seek FIR against Meghalaya ex-governor V Shanmuganathan for sexual harrassment

In November, a young woman was invited by Meghalaya Governor V Shanmuganathan to a job interview, and allegedly landed into a nightmare. "When I went there, he asked questions...on my personal life and forcefully hugged me and kissed me," the woman alleges in a handwritten and signed note to NDTV. The woman's complaint led to 98 members of the Governor's House in Shillong taking the unprecedented step of writing directly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Their letter alleged that Mr Shanmuganathan had "compromised the dignity" of the Raj Bhavan and turned it into a "young ladies club". Mr Shanmuganathan was asked to explain when the centre received the letter earlier this week, but his troubles escalated rapidly after reports appeared in newspapers. His resignation last night has been accepted by the President.

Before arriving in Delhi today, the 67-year-old visited the famous Kamakhya temple in Guwahati. 
The letter by the Raj Bhavan staff, which went viral online, lists a series of allegations against Mr Shanmuganathan, who was close to the RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP's ideological mentor. "From the time he has taken over, employees are going through severe humiliation, mental stress and torture," the employees wrote. He was accused of hiring or posting only women in his staff and turning the Raj Bhavan into a place where "young ladies come and go at will with direct orders from the governor." Many women "had direct access to his bedroom", they alleged.

The letter accused him of "hurting the decorum and prestige of the Raj Bhavan" and also "insulting, humiliating and psychologically torturing officers and staff." A Deputy Secretary, they alleged, felt so humiliated that he suffered a brain stroke and died within a few days, the employees claim.

Mr Shanmuganathan was appointed Governor of Meghalaya in 2015. Protests by civil society groups erupted on the streets of Shillong yesterday as Republic Day was being celebrated.  The protesters said Mr Shanmuganathan should quit and face criminal action. Since he is no longer a governor, he could face charges but officials in Meghalaya say it is the union home ministry's call.

Perhaps owing to Shanmuganathan's Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh background, the state BJP gave a measured response to the whole incident.  "I cannot say anything. I have seen in the newspaper only that there is some allegation against him. With due respect to the law of the land, I think it's good he resigned so that the enquiry is free and fair. He should cooperate with enquiry. If he is wrong he should be punished. And if he is not wrong, those who are against him or if there is any conspiracy, those people should be punished," said Meghalaya BJP president Shibun Lyngdoh.  However, Lyngdoh refrained from elucidating further by what he exactly meant by bringing in the conspiracy angle.  "I cannot say anything. It's the private life of a man. After having such a respectable post and heading the constitutional set up in the state, I cannot say anything more about it," he said.