#MeToo impact: Journalist CP Surendran steps down from Matrubhumi Festival's board of directors
On Wednesday, 14 November, several women at the forefront of the #MeToo movement's second wave in India wrote to the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters, asking it to cease its association with Surendran
After more than nine women stepped forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and misconduct during the ongoing #MeTooIndia movement, journalist-poet CP Surendran has stepped down from his position on the board of directors of the Matrubhumi International Festival of Letters.
The development was reported as several individuals, including the writer Nilanjana S Roy, questioned why Surendran was being allowed to continue associating with the festival in light of the allegations against him.
Why does @mbifl2019 have a named serial harasser of women on its board of festival directors (https://t.co/AaJfjorE8h)? A reminder of the charges against CP Surendran, who's made no apologies and taken no responsibility for his behaviour so far:https://t.co/80s3fMVFVQ
— Nilanjana Roy (@nilanjanaroy) November 13, 2018
Mathrubhumi MD Shreyams Kumar told The News Minute that Surendran had stepped down from his role. Kumar added that Surendran served as a consultant and was not an appointee to the board.
“The festival organisers had a meeting in which the issue was discussed. There, Surendran decided to step back from the festival. He had expressed that something like this [allegations of sexual harassment] are spreading. He said that it is just an allegation and there is no truth in it, but that it should not become a problem for conducting the festival,” Kumar was quoted by The News Minute as saying.
On Wednesday, 14 November, several women at the forefront of the #MeToo movement's second wave in India wrote to the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters, asking it to cease its association with Surendran.
'The Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters promises to bring together the literary community to facilitate a “confluence of great minds, thoughts and ideas”. In line with these aims, we are writing to express our deep concern over the behaviour and actions of one of your festival directors, Mr CP Surendran, and to request your support,' the letter read.
It further stated:
'Earlier this year, the #MeToo movement enabled many women across many different spheres of life to speak up, voicing their experiences of harassment, assault or sexist behaviour. Eleven women — most of us do not know each other — shared their memories of harassment by Mr Surendran, citing instances of unwelcome verbal and physical overtures. What emerges is a disturbing pattern of demeaning and belittling women whom he’s worked with or met at literary festivals.
The signatories to the letter pointed out that 'Mr Surendran’s response was dismissive and inadequate. Instead of attempting to address the anger, pain and damage caused by his actions over a long period of time, he defended his sexism, and offered no apology or suggestion that he might be willing to change or modify his behaviour in the future.'
'Aside from the women who’ve spoken up in public, others have privately shared their deep concerns and discomfort with Mr Surendran’s actions, speech and behaviour. We write as journalists, authors and readers, who are also part of the literary community your festival seeks to engage and include, requesting that the Mathrubhumi International Festival support the victims and survivors, rather than the perpetrator of sexual misconduct and harassment,' the letter stated, asking for Surendran to 'step back as a festival director this year, until these complaints have been fully addressed through an external or internal inquiry'.
'Creating a space that is respectful of women and all participants is an essential part of celebrating literature,' the signatories added.
The allegations against CP Surendran were voiced by women who worked with him at various publications, including DNA, Bombay Times and Arre. Other accounts had been shared by women who encountered Surendran at events like literature festivals, where he made untoward advances and behaved inappropriately.
When Firstpost sought a comment from CP Surendran regarding these allegations, he had said:
"I may have made what some people consider to be sexist comments. I believe sexism is an intellectual and physical reality. And I may be a victim of it myself. I choose not to think in given categories. This may be construed as arrogance. I may have put an arm around a woman at a party, never at work. That act of familiarity may have caused offense, which I regret, but I have never meant to give grief. I have not made obscene comments or gestures... I have no gender or political loyalties. I have paid a price for this all my life. It is quite easy to hate me. I often rub people of both genders the wrong way with my often ill-considered views. The majoritarianism that liberals deplore in political discourse is what is at stake here. This is the lynch mob of the drawing room at work. I am being shamed in a Scarlet Letter-meets-The Crucible social media-produced movie. I have no power to stop this. The #MeToo movement needs victims to feed and fatten itself. I won't be the last."
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