Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, who found himself in the eye of a storm involving two women – one an assistant professor and another a woman journalist – issued an apology to the journalist today.
In a letter addressed on the Raj Bhavan letterhead to Lakshmi Subramanian of The Week, Purohit said: “I wish to express my regret and my apologies to assuage your sentiments that has been hurt.” He clarified that his gesture of patting her cheek was “merely an act of appreciation for the question you had posed and considering you to be me 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 Governor’s apology should put the lid on the controversy surrounding the journalist but the issue about the woman assistant professor has to await the one man enquiry ordered by the Governor in his capacity as the Chancellor of the University.
While the first controversy surrounding the professor is based more on the discredited teacher’s version, the second incident with video evidence was entirely avoidable as it was the Governor’s own making. After concluding a press conference at the Raj Bhavan on Tuesday, Purohit while leaving the press meet was asked one last question by Lakshmi Subramanian. Instead of replying to the question the Governor instead patted lightly on the woman reporter’s cheek.
Though there might not have been any wrongful intent on his part, Purohit invited fresh trouble with the woman journalist protesting vehemently over twitter that his action was unbecoming and that she was angered and agitated. She even claimed that in spite of repeatedly washing her face the bad feeling about being inappropriately touched would not go away. More than hundred journalists then signed a petition to the Governor asking him for his unconditional apology.
What could ultimately save the 78 year old governor is his age – something he flaunted during the press meet and also the fact that he was even a great grandfather. The Governor’s side argued that his gesture was more paternal in nature and there was nothing indecent about it. The last word on the controversy has not been said as the journalist is still waiting for an explanation from Raj Bhavan.
It was about the first controversy involving Nirmala Devi an assistant professor of a private college from Arupukottai near Madurai that Purohit had convened the press meet. Devi’s long phone conversation (made almost a month ago) with four of her girl students asking them to make use of an opportunity to satisfy top officials of the Madurai Kamaraj University had gone viral on the social media. The lady professor suggestively tells the girls that they would be rewarded academically and monetarily if they made “use of the opportunity and take it to the next level.”
During this solicitation she even drops the Governor’s name pointing out how she could take photos of the governor from close quarters during an official function. “The governor is not a grandfather,” she tells the girl students implying that she was seeking favours on his behalf as well. Governor Purohit dismissed Devi’s remarks as “nonsense” and asserted that he has not even seen her face. He appointed an enquiry by a former IAS officer while the professor was arrested by the local police for alleged human trafficking.
At the press meet Purhoit dismissed suggestion of his being part of a sex racket with the words: “Do you know I am 78 years old. I have grandchildren and even blessed with great grandchildren. How can you even think of such a thing about me?” During the one hour press meet Purohit vehemently denied any wrongdoing on his part and also defended his various actions including appointing non-Tamils as vice-chancellors of universities, visiting district headquarters to review government projects and more importantly about the Madurai Kamaraj University scandal. Though at time he appeared irritated by the directness of the questions Purohit managed to fend them off without losing his cool.
Unfortunately for him, like a movie with a bad ending, his last action of patting the woman reporter’s cheek, saw the press meet end with a sour taste. And resulted in another controversy.