The journalist and poet CP Surendran has been dropped from the line-up of the Chair Poetry Evenings 2018 programme, amid #MeToo allegations by at least nine women against him.
The women — some of whom had worked with him at the publications DNA, Arre and Bombay Times, and others who encountered him during events like literary festivals — had accused Surendran of a range of inappropriate behaviours. Two of the women had also lodged complaints with the HR departments of their respective organisations at the time.
Surendran has denied all allegations of harassment.
On 15 November, it was reported that Surendran had stepped down from his position on the Matrubhumi Festival of Letters' board of directors. Mathrubhumi MD Shreyams Kumar said the festival organisers had a meeting during which Surendran volunteered to step down.
Just a day before this development, several leading women writers, journalists and those associated with the #MeTooIndia movement, had sent a joint letter to the Matrubhumi Festival, asking for it to cease its association with Surendran in light of the allegations against him.
Meanwhile, writer-editor Rajni George and journalist Kavitha Rao urged the organisers of Chair Poetry Evenings 2018 to remove Surendran from its programme line-up.
"Kavitha Rao and I wrote to the organisers of Chair Poetry Evenings, after she pointed out that he was featured there and we had also written to the Mathrubhumi International Festival with Nilanjana Roy and the Network of Women in Media, India," George told Firstpost.
Sonnet Mondal, the co-director for Chair Poetry Evenings confirmed that Surendran was no longer part of the 2018 programme. "CP Surendran was initially announced as one of the participants in the Chair Poetry Evenings. But as per the recent and final communication made by the festival board he is no longer participating in the event. CP himself also decided to step back from the festival. The final list (of participants) and details are available on our website," Mondal told Firstpost.
Rajni George previously spearheaded the campaign to get the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 to support the #MeTooIndia movement.
George told Firstpost that organisers of literary and cultural events had tough and unenviable decisions to make in the time to come. However, "given the courage of the women who have spoken up through #MeToo and how long justice has been delayed in some cases, we owe it to them to give up having someone speak at a festival when serious and credible allegations are made against them, until they are cleared," she added.
Kavitha Rao said she concurred with George's view that "literary festivals should be free of men who have credible allegations of harassment against them, especially (from) women who have gone on record".
George pointed out people were embracing #MeToo and urgent, collective action, "perhaps in light of our previous complicity — unwitting or not — and the overwhelming failure of existing systems". "If going without a credibly named author's presence at a literary festival till their name is cleared will mean supporting the survivors and women who have spoken up, it's a choice many now seem prepared to take in the absence of accountability through the processes that existed before #MeToo," she said.
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Updated Date: Nov 19, 2018 15:47:56 IST