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Kerala minister draws criticism for ‘trying to settle’ sexual harassment case

Kollam: Forest Minister and senior NCP leader A K Saseendran on Tuesday drew flak from opposition parties for his apparent interference in a case relating to allegations against his party leader for allegedly attempting to harass a woman. In the audio of the purported conversation between Saseendran and the woman’s father, aired by TV channels on Tuesday, a voice resembling that of the minister was heard asking the father to settle the issue.

Considering the matter ‘as a matter of the party’, Saseendran called the victim’s father. He said, ‘It is true that I have asked the father to settle the issue’. In the audio clip, the minister claims to have stated, ‘I did not know it was a sexual harassment case’. Saseendran allegedly acknowledged that he is aware of the incident and was heard saying, ‘that should be settled’. When the father objected, the minister allegedly said the matter should be ‘solved without causing any trouble’. Her father is an NCP member, and she is a Yuva Morcha worker.

On June 28, the woman, from Kollam, had complained to local police against NCP state executive member G Padmakaran, alleging that he had called her to his hotel and asked her why she had joined an opposition party and contested the last local elections. Her complaint states that he then grabbed her hand and asked if she was looking for money, and he was prepared to give her money. She claimed that Padmakaran later insulted her on social media groups affiliated with the party. The woman told the media that despite filing a complaint with the police on June 28, police have yet to register an FIR in the case.

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The party will react only after studying the issue, said CPI(M) state secretary A Vijayaraghavan. V D Satheesan, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, urged Saseendran to quit or ‘show the door’, while K Surendran said the state government had failed miserably in improving women’s safety. According to Satheesan, it is clear from the conversation in the media that the minister is aware of the issue. According to the victim, ‘the minister was aware of the issue…’

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