Minister under fire for rape attempt hush-up bid
TRIVANDRUM: Kerala’s minister for forests, AK Saseendran, is under fire again, this time for attempts to suppress sexual harassment complaint by a young woman against his party colleague.
The opposition leaders have demanded the resignation of the 75-year-old Nationalist Congress Party ( NCP) leader while women activists staged protests at many places across the state.
The victim, whose father is also a local leader of the NCP, said she would move the court against the police and get the minister, who denies the charges, booked.
On Tuesday, her father released an audio clip, purportedly the telephonic conversation between them, in which the minister asks him to “setle it amicably.”
As the opposition started building up pressure ahead of the legislative session that begins on Thursday, Saseendran called on chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
“I just brought to his atention what had happened,” he told reporters, hastily adding that the meeting was at his instance not vice versa.
“We discussed a couple of things ahead of the assembly session. He heard me atentively and said nothing.”
The victim was a candidate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the civic elections, which provoked the men.
The victim said the NCP leader, whom she used to address as “uncle,” called her into his hotel and asked her if she had joined the BJP to make money.
The hotelier then offered to pay her more money and grabbed her hands, which she resisted and ran away.
She feared to raise a complaint at that time as he was “influential, had a lot of money” and her father was not in town.
He later made some lewd comments against her in a group of party workers on Whatsapp, forcing her to file a police complaint.
“I have come to know that there is a small case against our party leader,” the minister was heard telling her father on the phone.
When he asks if he was referring to the case of outraging the modesty of his daughter, the minister says, “That should be setled.”
When the father objects, the minister insists it should be “solved without causing any trouble”.
However, the minister told reporters that he did call up the woman’s father to try and “setle the issue” as he thought it was a dispute between parties. The victim said the minister called him directly ater the atempts to get the mater “setled” through others failed.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI (M), which leads the ruling coalition, meanwhile, rejected the call for his resignation.