Brinda Karat, a known champion of women’s rights, did not take up the case since, it is being explained in party circles, that letter was written in Malayalam.
The CPM decision not to hand over a sexual harassment complaint by a woman member against a party MLA in Kerala to the police and instead conduct a probe on its own has led many to question whether two sets of justice prevail in the state. The complainant is a member of the Palakkad district committee of the party’s youth wing, Democratic Youth Federation of India. She has alleged that P.K. Sasi, party MLA from Shoranur, a major railway junction in the district of Palakkad, tried to sexually abuse her at the party office in Mannarkkad town in the district. The woman member had apparently made an official complaint to Politburo member Brinda Karat and senior leaders from Palakkad on 14 August. Brinda Karat, a known champion of women’s rights, did not take up her case since, it is being explained in party circles, that letter was written in Malayalam. That one of her colleagues in the Politburo, S. Ramachandran Pillai is from Kerala is another matter. The local leaders, it has now come to light, tried to persuade her to withdraw the complaint, even offering huge sums of money and position. However, the woman refused and since she did not get any response, brought the incident to the notice of party general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who directed the state unit to look into the matter. Till that time the state committee sat on the matter. Of course, now the explanation is that the leaders didn’t have the time to look into the complaint as they were too busy handling the deluge. By this time, the news about the complaint appeared in a local daily and in reply to a query in Delhi, Yechury confirmed that he was in receipt of such a complaint. Immediately after this, the CPM state secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan confirmed that the party indeed had got such a complaint three weeks ago. “The complaint was received by the party and it will be handled in its own way”, he told newspersons in Thiruvananthapuram. On whether the complaint will be handed over to the police, he said it has been sent to the party and not to the police. This has created much political heat, with the Opposition, mainly the BJP, questioning whether the CPM had its own law in dealing with such cases and accused the state women’s commission of becoming a “mute spectator”.
To this the state women’s commission chairperson, M.C. Josephine, a member of the party’s central committee, said “a suo motu case cannot be registered as the complaint has been forwarded to the party”. “This is not a new thing. From the time CPM came into being, there are certain ways for it to handle such issues,” Josephine said, adding “to err is human and sometimes mistakes do happen to people in the party also.” The state government, too, had refused to interfere in the matter. State Minister for Industries E.P. Jayarajan, who is considered number two in the Cabinet in the absence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, said the government had nothing to do with the matter. “You should ask the party secretary…ask the complainant. This is not a matter to be dealt with by the government,” Jayarajan told newspersons on Wednesday. Pinarayi Vijayan is away in the US for three weeks for advanced treatment and there is no official word on who heads the Cabinet in his absence. But it is interesting that the two-member investigation panel set up by the state CPM includes A.K. Balan, state Minister for Welfare of SCs, STs and Backward Classes, besides handling Law. The other member is P.K. Sreemathi, the MP from Kannur. Both are constitutionally bound to report the matter to the police. Even as the investigation is apparently on the MLA continues to preside over party’s Palakkad district committee meetings, where of course the matter “was never raised”. All this time, the MLA, Sasi, had contended that he was not aware of any allegations, but was certain “forces were out to destroy me politically”. “There are many people who want to destroy me politically. I have overcome several difficult times in the past. I don’t know about any party inquiry. I will face it as a good communist,” he was quoted as saying in Shoranur when the news about the harassment broke. Now he says that “the CPM has the power to probe into the complaint. I also have the same strength to face the probe.”
The state committee has said that unlike “bourgeois parties” the CPM does not believe in giving reception to the accused. “The party will act against Sasi as per its Constitution and moral values,” the statement said. Since CPM believes in its own Constitution more than the Indian Constitution, public can be best assured that justice will prevail. Only difference being while the victim goes into oblivion, the predator continues to enjoy party patronage.
For this is not the first time top party functionaries have faced grave allegations of sexual misdemeanour.
In 2011, P. Sasi, then powerful district secretary of Kannur and one time political secretary to the late Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar, had to step down following charges of sexual harassment of a colleague’s wife and a comrade belonging to the party’s women’s wing. Then too, the party had tried to hide the matter saying he had gone on leave for Ayurvedic treatment in Bangalore, till such time as the vernacular press brought the incident to public glare. Sasi was reinstated in the party without much fanfare in July this year. Then in 2012, Ernakulam district secretary and one-time loyalist of V.S. Achuthanandan, Gopi Kottamurikkal was removed following a sting operation in the party office involving a woman lawyer. At the time, he had switched loyalties, giving the Pinarayi Vijayan faction a decisive upper hand in the district. Kottamurikkal too is back in the party, though keeping a low profile now.