There was outrage on social media over CP Surendran being listed as one of the festival directors for Mathrubhumi Festival of Letters despite having been accused by 11 women of sexual harassment.

Journo CP Surendran steps back as Mathrubhumi lit fest director after Me Too allegations
news Me Too Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 17:35

Journalist, poet and author CP Surendran, who has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, is no longer associated with the Mathrubhumi Festival of Letters, a literary festival held annually in Kerala. While his name still appears on the Festival of Letters website as one of the listed directors, Mathrubhumi MD Shreyams Kumar told TNM that Surendran has chosen to step back.

Speaking to TNM on Thursday afternoon, Shreyams said, “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.”

The Mathrubhumi MD pointed out that Surendran’s post of director was not an appointed one and was merely on a consulting basis. 

There was outrage on social media since around 13 November over Surendran being listed as one of the directors of the Mathrubhumi Festival of Letters, despite having been accused by 11 women of sexual harassment. The women, who bore little or no connection to each other, were Surendran’s former colleagues from The Times of India, Open magazine, DNA newspaper, ArrĂ© and Harper Collins Publishers India. 

On social media, there were also references to Surendran’s glaring lack of remorse or apology after the allegations were made against him. Denying all the allegations made against him, Surendran’s brazen response was: “I believe sexism is an intellectual and physical reality. And I may be a victim of it myself”. He concluded his statement by saying that the allegations against him were the lynch mob at work, and that “the #MeToo movement needs victims to feed and fatten itself. I won't be the last.”

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) had also written to the organisers of the Mathrubhumi Festival of Letters, expressing the need for CP Surendran to be asked to step back from organising this year’s edition of the festival, given the wave of #MeToo allegations against him, and the global #MeToo climate that was heralding change in various sectors. The letter included the lines, "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." 

Mathrubhumi published a highly objectionable cartoon based on #MeToo on 10 October. The cartoon came days after journalist Sandhya Menon triggered a ‘Me Too’ moment in the journalism industry when she posted her experience of sexual harassment in the workplace, and invited other women to tweet their experiences. The distasteful cartoon, by the cartoonist Rajendrakumar, depicted a bent, elderly woman with a cane and a sign that said "Me Too", saying that she too had been sexually harassed by “Vadakkelthe Narayanettan” (some local man) when she was a young student. The cartoon incorrectly and damagingly implied that it was comical for women to be talking about sexual harassment cases that took place decades ago, and that such allegations and stories were without merit and should not be taken seriously.