Women’s activists and a former senior police official have criticised the Karnataka government’s decision to appoint a Special Investigation Team to look into the “conspiracy angle” to the Ramesh Jarkiholi sex scandal, and not whether the woman in question was a victim of sexual harassment.
“The government and the media have both been unfair to the woman in question,” The Hindu newspaper quoted Jayashree Gurannanavar, farmers’ leader and former state secretary of Dalit Mahila Okkoota, as saying. “The government is only interested in protecting the reputation of the [former] minister while the media is carrying out investigations to find out the woman’s identity and the reasons why she visited the leader frequently. No one is interested in finding out if the former minister misused his powerful position,” she said.
The newspaper K Neela, state unit vice-president of Akhil Bharatiya Janwadi Mahila Sanghatane, accused the. Government of having a “patriarchal mindset”.
“In all cases of alleged sexual harassment, it is presumed that the woman is wrong. It sends out the message that the government is trying to protect Jarkiholi and not the woman,” the paper quoted her as saying.
Former deputy commissioner of police ND Mullah told The Federal that the investigation is going in the wrong direction, and that the authorities should investigate if the woman in the video had given her consent and if she was under any pressure.
“It’s a dicey case as the video and audiotape do not reveal that a promise was made [by the minister that he would help her get a government job],” he told The Federal.
Sandeep Patil, a member of the SIT, could not be reached for comment.
Pramila Naidu, a member of the Karnataka Women’s Commission, said although they were in touch with the investigating officers, the panel had not received any complaints from the alleged victim. They were waiting for her to come forward and complain, she said.
Meanwhile, BJP leaders have backed Jarkiholi and called the allegations a “political conspiracy”.
MP Renukacharya, legislator and Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa’s political secretary, said: “This is neither a sexual harassment case nor a rape case.”
Renukacharya himself was accused of sexual harassment back in 2007. Despite that, he was inducted into the Yediyurappa cabinet in 2008.
On March 3, BJP MLA Jarkiholi stepped down as the state’s water resources minister amid ‘sex-for-job’ allegations against him. Television channels aired images and videos of a ‘sex CD’ showing him with an unidentified young woman, allegedly promising her a government job in return for sex.
The scandal caused a lot of embarrassment for the ruling BJP, even though the minister resigned immediately on moral grounds. Jarkiholi went on to claim that he was innocent and that he did nothing wrong. He also demanded a law be brought in to protect politicians from such allegations.
Jarkiholi later wrote a letter to state Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai demanding an SIT probe. The home minister then formed the SIT with limited terms of references, focused on the political conspiracy angle and not the former minister’s role in the scandal.