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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

Kerala BJP leader Suresh Gopi booked for alleged misbehaviour with woman journalist

Leaders of several non-BJP parties urge police to book Gopi under the POSH Act

K.M. Rakesh Bangalore Published 29.10.23, 07:22 AM
Suresh Gopi.

Suresh Gopi. File picture

Actor and Kerala BJP leader Suresh Gopi was booked on Saturday after a journalist with a Malayalam news channel lodged a police complaint accusing him of touching her inappropriately.

Gopi, 65, was recently appointed chairman of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), Calcutta.

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Nadakkavu police station in Kozhikode registered an FIR against Gopi under penal code section 354A(1)(i), which deals with physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures. A conviction can bring up to three years in jail.

In her complaint with the Kozhikode city police commissioner, the journalist – a special correspondent with the channel – alleged that the incident happened during a media interaction in the north Kerala city on Friday.

The complaint was filed hours after Gopi, a former Rajya Sabha member, apologised to the journalist in a Facebook post on Saturday while describing his touch as a sign of “affection”.

The reporter said she had undergone “a lot of mental trauma” and felt “humiliated as a woman” by Gopi’s act.

Reporters had met Gopi on Friday to seek his comments on recent political developments, including his possible candidature for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The reporter, in a video message aired by her channel, said Gopi had touched her after she asked a political question. “Responding to my query he called me ‘moley’ (daughter) and caressed my shoulder.”

The reporter had asked Gopi about the repeated rejection of the BJP by Kerala’s voters after he said he was hopeful of winning from the Thrissur Lok Sabha seat in 2024.

Television images show Gopi replying “Let us see, moley,” apparently in a light-hearted manner, and placing his hand on her shoulder. The reporter takes a couple of steps back after he touches her and repeats the question.

Gopi again places his hand on her shoulder. She then removes his hand from her shoulder.

The issue heated up late on Friday with the Kerala Union of Working Journalists demanding an apology from Gopi. The union on Saturday wrote to the state women’s commission seeking action against the politician.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Gopi said: “I interacted with (he mentions the journalist’s name) with affection in the presence of (other) media personnel. Never have I behaved in a disrespectful manner in public space or otherwise.

“But my view is that I need to respect whatever that child feels about it. I apologise if that child felt anything wrong about it or suffered any mental stress. Sorry (the journalist’s name).”

In her video message, the reporter said: “I went there to ask questions to Suresh Gopi the politician, and not for any friendly chat.

“That incident created a lot of mental trauma…. I saw his apology. It’s not about me assuming that something was wrong. But it’s he who should realise it was wrong.

“I really felt it was inappropriate. I don’t see it as an apology but as an explanation from him…. I have been humiliated as a woman.”

The Network of Women In Media, Kerala, has issued a statement describing Gopi’s act as an offence under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, or POSH Act, and called for stringent action. “This can only be seen as workplace harassment,” the statement said.

Leaders of several non-BJP parties came out in support of the journalist and urged the police to book Gopi under the POSH Act.

State BJP president K. Surendran has sought an end to the controversy. “Suresh Gopi has publicly apologised to the sister who felt mental trauma although his action had no wrong intention. I request everyone to end this controversy at least now,” he posted on X.

State BJP politician Shobha Surendran, currently sidelined after several run-ins with the party, defended Gopi.

“The reporter continued to speak to him very affectionately even after he placed his hand on her. She didn’t have an iota of suspicion that Suresh Gopi behaved inappropriately,” she told reporters on Saturday.

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