Sending SMS not sexual harassment: Punjab Cong leader

Last Updated 26 October 2018, 19:16 IST

Amid a row over an “inappropriate text" by a Punjab minister to a woman official, AICC secretary Asha Kumari Friday said an SMS message did not amount to sexual harassment.

Her remark drew sharp criticism from opposition Shiromani Akali Dal, which charged that Congress president Rahul Gandhi had assigned Kumari to “cover up the misdeeds of Technical Education minister Charanjit Singh Channi."

Kumari, who is the Punjab in-charge at the All India Congress Committee, made the remark to reporters on the sidelines of a demonstration here against the recent shake-up in the CBI.

She said the party had received no complaint against the minister and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had already expressed his view on the matter.

The minister had allegedly sent an inappropriate message to a woman official some weeks back, triggering opposition demand to sack him from his post.

In an apparent reference to the movement against sexual harassment at workplace, Kumari said, “Sending a message does not become a case of MeToo."

"Sexual harassment is different from messaging," she added.

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal expressed shock over the remark.

"It is shameful that a woman is belittling a fellow woman on the orders of Rahul Gandhi with a mind-boggling statement that text messages did not constitute sexual harassment,” he said in a statement.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh recently said he had asked the minister to apologise to the official and believed that the matter had been “resolved” to her satisfaction.

The chief minister and Usha Kumari did not name the minister, who has told some newspapers that he sent the text by mistake to the officer.

“When the chief minister has acknowledged the minister's guilt how is Kumari giving him a clean chit?” Badal said.

He said Kumari has belittled India's MeToo movement “which seeks to expose and punish people like Channi”.

He said Rahul Gandhi should tell Punjabis why he is adopting double standards on the issue, reminding that the Congress had demanded the resignation of Union minister M J Akbar when he faced allegations of sexual harassment.

“Is Rahul silent about this criminal act because the minister is his blue-eyed boy?” the SAD president said.

Badal claimed Gandhi had been informed about the matter a month back and he should clarify why he kept silent.

He reiterated the opposition demand that Channi should be sacked from the Punjab cabinet.

“If the Congress government cannot give justice to a woman officer, what will be the fate of several ordinary women in Punjab who have no direct access to the chief minister or the corridors of power?” he said.

(Published 26 October 2018, 16:34 IST)

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