Forest Minister draws flak for trying to settle attempted sexual harassment case against NCP leader

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(Eds: adding details) Thiruvananthapuram, July 20 (PTI) Kerala Forest Minister and senior NCP leader A K Saseendran on Tuesday drew flak from the Congress, BJP and other political parties for his alleged interference in trying to settle a case related to accusations against one of his party leaders for attempting to sexually harass a woman.

While Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan demanded that the minister resign or be removed from the cabinet, state BJP president K Surendran alleged that Saseendran has violated his oath of office and that the ruling government has 'failed miserably' in terms of ensuring security for women.

Surendran alleged that this was an example of why violence against women was on the rise in Kerala as the ruling party here is protecting those who sexually harass women.

The BJP leader said victims cannot expect any justice under the ruling government.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Youth League's Ernakulam District Committee's vice president, Sajal, lodged a complaint with the police, seeking action against Saseendran for trying to suppress the sexual harassment case.

The issue came to the fore after Malayalam news channels started airing an alleged telephonic conversation between Saseendran and the woman's father, seeking to settle the issue by mutual agreement.

The minister told the media subsequently that he did call up the girl's father - who is a NCP member - to try and settle the issue as he thought it was a dispute between parties.

He claimed that when he found out that it was a case of attempted sexual assault, he did not intervene any further.

The woman from Kollam, however, claimed before the media that the minister initially tried to get the matter settled by intervening indirectly through others and then directly called up her father.

The woman, a BJP member, said the NCP member in question had asked her in March whether she had joined BJP to earn money and if so, he would pay her and had then allegedly grabbed her arm.

When she said she would raise a hue and cry, he let go of her, she claimed and added that she did not lodge a complaint at that time as the person in question was influential, had a lot of money and her father was not in town.

Subsequently, the NCP member used to mock her at various fora and then on June 28 posted her election campaign poster on WhatsApp with the comment that her father -- also an NCP member -- got the daughter to join BJP for earning money.

On seeing this, she told her father about the earlier incident and he said a complaint should be lodged with police.

She further alleged that though they managed to register a complaint and get a receipt, thereafter none of the police officers, including the SHO and Circle Inspector, were interested in probing the matter or taking action against the NCP leader.

She claimed that no action has been taken till date and each time she enquires about the status of her complaint, the officers concerned tell her that they are looking into it.

It was in this situation that the minister allegedly interfered to get the case settled, according to the woman.


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