Kochi: Union minister Vayalar Ravi claimed today that he was joking when he made an offensive remark to a woman journalist in Kerala, according to reports on NDTV.
He had made indecent and sexist remarks against a woman journalist in Kerala who had asked questions to him on the Suryanelli rape case and Congress leader P J Kurien whose name has been dragged in the incident on Wednesday.
The remarks of Ravi caught in video against the questioner, whom he asked if she has something personal against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien who has been accused as one of those who raped her by the victim but has been cleared by all courts, triggered outrage and prompted the women journalists' group to take up the matter.
"Do you have any personal problem or grudge against Kurien? I am sure you do. Has something happened between you and him in the past? " asked Ravi in Malayalam to the journalist.
Women activists and opposition parties protested against the remarks.
After the controversy was discussed in the Kerala Assembly yesterday, Ravi apologized to the reporter.
Today, he said, "I apologised to her and she laughed it off... I apologised, what else can I do?"
People known to the reporter say she did not, as the union minister claims, "laugh off" his apology, the report said.
Members of the Kerala Chapter of the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), condemned Vayalar Ravi’s deplorable behaviour and his aggressive reaction to the young woman journalist working for Mathrubhumi TV Channel.
"The minister’s insinuations show that he thinks the whole incident is a joke. When asked about his response to recent developments in the Suryanelli rape case in which P J Kurien’s name has resurfaced, the minister questioned the journalists’ motives and went on to make uncalled for remarks about her morals and integrity," said NWMI.
"Such conduct is not expected from a senior minister and it shows his lack of the sensitivity required in a leader of his stature. His posture, body language and statements were unbecoming of a man of his experience in public life as a representative of the people. We believe that if journalists who have to ask questions and get reactions to current affairs and news happening 24x7 are treated thus, then the common woman has no chance at all,"s said NWMI.
Sandhya Bala Suma, State Co-ordinator, NWM-Kerala, said about 25 women media professionals met and have decided to mail a petition on this issue to the president of India, the prime minister, the Congress president, as well as the chief minister of Kerala.
PJ Kurien is facing protests in Kerala over the Suryanelli gangrape case though he said the allegations levelled against him are political vendetta.
The rape victim earlier said she was not forced by anyone to take Kurien's name in the case.
The Suryanelli rape case is concerned with a 16-year-old girl who was raped by 42 men for 40 days in 1996 in the state.