The indecent behavior of Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit towards a woman journalist is also a sign of certain habits and attitudes.
The allegation that Nirmala Devi, a professor at a college affiliated to the Madurai Kamaraj University had tried to persuade the women students for sexual favours to top University officials, had led to a huge uproar. The name of Banwarilal was also heard mentioned in the controversy. He called a press conference at the Raj Bhavan to make clarifications regarding the allegation. When the press conference was about to conclude, Lakshmi Subramanian, a journalist with The Week asked the Governor a question related to the allegation. The Governor did not answer her question; he gave a pat on her cheek and walked away. The journalist expressed her anger and agitation at this behaviour by posting it on the social media. The Chennai Press Club also wrote to the Governor expressing the protest of the media community. In his reply, Banwarilal Purohit expressed his regret and apologies for his behaviour. He also explained that he was praising the journalist as he thought her question was a ‘good one’ and patted her on the cheek because she was like his ‘granddaughter’. Even in this explanation, one can read signs of a patronizing attitude showed by those who display a high-handed attitude. A person who calls a press conference should reply if the question is a ‘good one’, not pat on the cheek and walk away. The Governor’s behavior downgraded his position as well. It is doubtful whether he has still realized the point he should have realized regarding the incident.
The Governor’s approach regarding the controversy which prompted him to call a press conference is not flawless either. The state government had referred to the Crime Branch Crime Investigation Department (CBCID), the case of the professor forcing female students for sexual favours to officials. At the same time, the Governor dissolved the internal inquiry committee appointed by the University. Instead, an investigation was announced on his own. When such circumstances that raise much suspicion exist, he evaded the press without giving a response during the press conference. The incident of giving a pat on the cheek of the woman journalist might have been helpful in concealing this evasion. The controversy related to this and the Governor’s apologies have all led to the diversion of public attention from the main controversy. It is comprehended that the recognition and gravity that is due to be given to the media as a core constituent of democracy,, is unknown to even those in Constitutional posts. As the media persons pointed out, the Governor has not only forgotten basic decorum but has also committed a non-bailable offence. This is the plight of those who should have been the role models. Those who occupied constitutional position were once models of mutual respect that should govern relations among fellow human beings. But what we see in recent times is that even high level leaders come out with words and deeds that break the realm of decency.
It is not an isolated incident that soon after the Governor tendered his apology to the journalist, senior BJP leader of Tamil Nadu, Shekhar reacted in a manner derogatory to women journalists. Such people make pejorative words an essential part of common debate. True, there may be black sheeps among journalists, but that does not justify insulting real journalism. People with connections to authority indulge in scratching media in different ways, a trend which has been on the increase over the past few years. And female journalists have to suffer more abuse and contempt. In this context, the appropriate response and protest of Lakshmi Subramaniam deserves admiration. It is no small thing to hold up one's self-respect and tell the truth even if it is to a Governor. She has thereby raised the esteem of journalists, women journalists in particular. Mediapersons should be provided with security and decent working environment. The Governor of Tamil Nadu may have realised his mistake. But the fact that several people came out justifying him and blaming the journalist, speaks for the lack of decorum in our public discourse. It is not merely a pat on a cheek, but a fundamental malaise.