Government plays down sexist comments of Vayalar Ravi

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 10:10 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari Thursday said that his colleague and Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi has apologised for his sexist comments, and the matter should rest there.

Tewari said the remark was unbecoming for someone working in the public sphere, but since Ravi had apologised and withdrawn his remarks, the matter should now be put to rest.

A woman journalist in Kerala sought Ravi's reaction Thursday to attempts to make Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha P.J. Kurien stand trial in the Suryanelli sex case. Vayalar Ravi responded with a personal swipe at the reporter, asking if she had a personal grudge against Kurien.

"Do you have anything personal against Kurien? I am sure you do. Has something happened between you and him in the past?" Ravi had asked the woman journalist. The comments were caught on camera.

"Such a comment is not expected from anyone in the public sphere," Manish Tewari told women journalists Thursday at the Indian Women Press Corps (IWPC) in New Delhi.

He urged the media people to lay the matter to rest since Ravi had since offered an apology and retracted his comments.

"To the best of my knowledge he has retracted the comments and expressed regret. Let us leave it there," he said.

Commenting on the rape charges against P.J. Kurien in the Suryanelli case, Tewari said the matter was being sensationalised, and the legal procedure would be followed.

The Suryanelli sex scandal gets its name from the place in Idukki district from where the victim hailed. In Jan 1996, a 16-year-old girl was threatened, abducted and abused by a bus conductor, and later taken from place to place for 45 days and subjected to sexual assault by 42 men.

The case returned to the limelight after the Supreme Court Jan 31 ordered a retrial in the high court, setting aside the acquittal in 2005 by the Kerala High Court of all but one of the 35 accused.

The victim, now 32 years old and an employee of the state government, and her family have consistently maintained that Congress leader P.J. Kurien should stand trial in the case, as he was among those who exploited her.

They allege that Kurien was shielded from the law because of his political influence.

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