Chennai: A journalists’ body today demanded an apology from Banwarilal Purohit for publicly patting a woman reporter on her cheek, insisting the Tamil Nadu Governor’s conduct was “unbecoming” and “not condonable”.
“The governor, being the constitutional head of the State, is expected to set an example by his words and actions. But, we are sorry to say, your behaviour in yesterday’s press meet was neither exemplary nor condonable,” the Chennai Press Club said in a letter to Purohit.
Bharathithamizhan, the Joint Secretary of the club, said there was an “imminent danger” of other politicians emulating the governor and trying to misbehave with women journalists.
The governor had kicked up a controversy yesterday when he patted the journalist on her cheek, apparently to diplomatically avoid replying to a question asked by her.
“We request you to immediately issue an apology for your unbecoming conduct during the press meet on April 17, 2018, at Raj Bhavan and avoid precipitating the matter further,” he said.
He said the governor could have refused to reply to the questions posed by the woman reporter.
“But, instead of answering or refusing to answer, you chose to pat the cheek of the lady scribe in front of her peers and live cameras,” he said.
Meanwhile, The DMK and TVK today staged separate protests over the issue. The DMK demanded that the Centre recall Purohit.
Former Chennai city mayor and DMK MLA M Subramanian, who led the party’s protest, also slammed Purohit for his regular review meetings with State officials.
The DMK has been protesting against these meetings, saying those amounted to the Raj Bhavan infringing on the rights of the State government.
Subramanian, party MLA V Chandrasekar and scores of DMK workers were detained by police.
The pro-Tamil Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi (TVK) also staged a protest, with several of its workers and supporters taken into custody.
Meanwhile, some 190 journalists employed with various news outlets in the State and some freelancers have also written to the governor, demanding an “unconditional apology”.
Expressing “shock”, they said Purohit, as the constitutional head of the State, “crossed lines of not just basic courtesy but also those of the law.”
“Your action in touching the cheek of a senior lady reporter who asked you a question at the press meet was patronising at best and a violation of her rights as a woman at worst. She was there since you had called for a press meet and simply discharging her duty as a journalist,” they said.
Though the journalists did not question the motive behind Purohit’s gesture, they, however, said it was “appalling” that he chose to do such a thing at a press meet “that you addressed on the case of a professor allegedly luring students to sexual encounters with her seniors.”
“It does not behove the constitutional head of a State to throw basic courtesy and respect to the winds and attempt to touch a lady without her consent, even if the gesture may have been paternal in nature,” they said.
“Mr Governor, we the journalists of Tamil Nadu and India demand that you offer an unconditional apology to the journalist in question and also assure all journalists of Tamil Nadu that you will not violate their rights in the future,” they demanded.
The incident happened during a rare press meet called by Purohit where he promised strict action in the episode involving a woman college teacher who allegedly advised girl students to extend sexual favours to senior university officials.
The 78-year-old governor had patted the journalist on the cheek when he was about to leave the venue of the crowded press conference at the Raj Bhavan, apparently to parry a question by her.
DMK leaders Kanimozhi and MK Stalin had immediately hit out at him over the incident.
Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has apologised to a senior woman journalist after he set off a firestorm by patting her cheek at a press conference at Raj Bhavan on Tuesday.
In a letter to Subramanian, the governor wrote, “…I gave a pat on your cheek considering you to be like my granddaughter. It was done with affection and to express my appreciation for your performance as a journalist since I was also a member of that profession for about 40 years.”
The journalist took to Twitter to announce that while she accepted the apology, she was not convinced about Purohit’s intention.
Your Excellency, I have with me your letter expressing regret at what happened at the press conference in Chennai the previous day. I accept your apology, even though I am not convinced about your contention that you did it to appreciate a question I asked @TheWeekLive pic.twitter.com/JhjPOQy8UW
— Lakshmi Subramanian (@lakhinathan) April 18, 2018