The State Committee of the CPIM deliberated on the sexual harassment complaint by a woman DYFI leader against party MLA from Shoranur, P. K. Sasi on September 7 at Thiruvananthapuram – a complaint received by the State Secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on August 14.
Reports indicate that Kodiyeri had constituted immediately a two member committee with A.K. Balan and Sreemathi Teacher as members to look into the complaint. He had also summoned the concerned MLA, Sasi and enquired about the matter. Kodiyeri also ascertained the facts from the victim. The matter is to be discussed and decided upon in the next State Committee scheduled for September 30 and October last by which time the committee report would also be available.
Treating a sexual harassment case in such a relaxed and casual manner has shocked many, particularly women. CPIM normally takes up such cases happening outside the party with the authorities and urges immediate action. The whole matter could have been examined in a few days as facts are only to be ascertained from two party leaders. Expeditious final view by the state committee could have been possible earlier.
The wise men of the state committee had no qualms about postponing a decision on such a matter for almost another month while the victim is crying for help and according to some reports is facing strong pressure to dilute her complaint. Her parents are also facing the music. The highly disciplined party family was forced to approach the central leadership to seek justice and escape the mounting local pressures.
The victim sought justice from local leaders much earlier as the alleged harassment took place a few months ago. The Palghat District Committee of the party did not take the complaint seriously. Later she approached the State Secretary and later politburo member Brinda Karat, a known crusader of taking up just causes, particularly of suffering women. Finally the victim sent a message to party general secretary, Sitaram Yechuri, who admitted having received a complaint against the MLA while replying to a question. It is Yechuri admitting the existence of a complaint, which made everyone wake up highly embarrassed. Initially even Brinda Karat kept mum on the complaint and did not comment when newspersons asked for reaction.
But Yechuri’s admission of having received a complaint created widespread adverse reaction throughout the country, particularly in Kerala. Veteran of many causes, V.S. Achuthanandan demanded immediate action and followed it up with a letter to Yechuri demanding a probe under the supervision of the central leadership. National Women’s Commission decided to take up the matter and asked Kerala police to submit a report within two weeks. Brinda Karat too made it clear that the party would not tolerate any injustice against women and action would follow. Many in the party too felt that inaction would adversely affect the image of the party, particularly on the eve of Panchayat and Parliamentary polls.
Obviously the state committee came under pressure and it could not but change its attitude. State Committee statement indicated that the party would act strongly if the MLA is found guilty.
But the question is on such issues can the party be the final dispenser of justice? Any citizen who commits such a crime will have to be dealt with as per the laws of the land. Is it not expected of the party leaders, who have received the complaint, to hand over the whole matter to the Police, who are expected to investigate and act according to the relevant laws? Can any organization ignore a crime by its member and take steps on their own and suppress the crime and allow the perpetrator to go free with minor disciplinary action? What happens if it is murder or dacoity by a party leader?
Can India have a law for its citizens and another for members of some organizations or establishments? In this case can CPIM, which has fought for the rights of women and always taken up cases relating to sexual abuses by criminals, however highly placed, take a view that in the case of a party leader such a crime can be settled by the party leadership? Only the investigating agencies can finally come to the conclusion about the nature of the guilt and place before the courts to take final view. It is the courts in this country who finally deliver the judgment on such criminal acts.
It would be in the fitness of things, whatever be the recommendation of the two member commission appointed by the State Committee, the party leadership should hand over all the papers to the Police and allow it to proceed as per the law of the land. Veteran communist leaders should not forget that CR PC and IPC are applicable to all Indian citizens and final judgment has to come from the court. Party leaders cannot usurp such power of the law enforcers and the courts. Any other attempt would be a grave offence and act against the Constitution.
To be fair, all political parties try to keep the crimes of their leaders under wraps. Action comes when public and media pressure mounts or suo moto cases are taken up. A recent case is that of a UP MLA who raped a girl. BJP leadership in the state pretended as if nothing had happened. UP police too did not take any action, obviously under pressure. But when public pressure, media focus and agitations by the opposition parties began, even Yogi Adityananth UP chief minister, had to succumb and police registered a case against the MLA which is now sub judice.
Nobody can escape the long arm of the law whatever tricks the political parties may try. Law does not discriminate between ordinary citizens and political leaders. In this case in Kerala the obvious question is what about CR PC and IPC, Comrades?