While Kiruba Munusamy has alleged that the activist sought a sexual favour from her when she was working with him in 2016, Piyush Manush has said he is open to an inquiry.

Lawyer Kiruba accuses activist Piyush Manush of targeting her with Mugilan video
news Controversy Friday, July 12, 2019 - 15:03

Supreme Court advocate and anti caste activist Kiruba Munusamy has reiterated her allegations of sexual harassment against Tamil Nadu-based activist Piyush Manush, days after he defended fellow activist Mugilan— who has been accused of rape. On Sunday, Piyush posted a video to his Facebook page and claimed that the rape allegation against activist Mugilan was part of the effort to discredit the ‘goodwill’ enjoyed by activists. In defending Mugilan, he drew parallels to the allegations of sexual harassment that he faced from Kiruba. In 2016, Kiruba had accused Piyush of sexual harassment; she alleged that Piyush had asked for a sexual favour when she had worked with him while she was still a law student at the Salem Law College. 

RS Mugilan, Coordinator of Tamil Nadu Environment Protection Movement, had gone missing in February this year. Opposition party political leaders and activists in the state had alleged that it was an enforced disappearance since Mugilan had blamed top cops in the state for the killing of 13 civilians during the anti-Sterlite protests in May last year. Over a month after he disappeared, a woman social activist in Karur district filed a case of rape against him. Mugilan was spotted in Andhra Pradesh on Saturday and was arrested by the CB-CID on the rape charge on Sunday.

Read: ‘He vanished to avoid confrontation': Woman who accused Mugilan of rape to TNM

The allegation

Kiruba has said that she worked under Piyush Manush for about a month and a half around 2006- 2007. She quit after she allegedly faced sexual harassment and claims that she was not paid salary that was due to her. In a Facebook post in July 2016, Kiruba wrote, “On top of all this, all the women who have worked with him, including me, definitely have complaints regarding his behaviour. In particular, he cunningly told me a story about how only owls have a relationship with a male [owl] all their lives and that we are not owls. I don't need to explain why he said that story. I don't wish to say anything more than this.”

With her name being dragged in to cite similarities with the rape charge against Mugilan, Kiruba took to social media on Wednesday and reiterated the allegation. “Now utilizing Environmentalist Mukilan's arrest on a rape complaint by his colleague, with whom he reportedly was having an extra-marital affair, Piyush has posted a video on his FB alleging that I too made a false sexual harassment allegation and there's a pattern in it. Without any evidence, he says that two of my friends have been gifted 1.5 acres land by ISHA Jaggi and when he messaged I've not denied it. The way he had cunningly framed me as a government-corporate stooge, shows that he had been waiting for an opportunity to revenge me.” (sic) she wrote.

She also recounted that when she had shared her ordeal in 2016, she was met with casteist, sexist and body-shaming remarks. Piyush had been imprisoned after a protest at the time and a large section of the civil society in the state had rallied to his support, against the government. Since Kiruba’s allegations had come after his arrest and imprisonment, her ‘timing’ was questioned and ‘motives’ suspected. Despite her years-long work fighting against discriminatory governmental policies and speaking up for the rights of the marginalised, she was accused of being set-up by the state. 

The video

Soon after Mugilan’s arrest, Piyush, who also runs a bamboo business, recalled that he was physically and mentally tortured in custody when he was jailed in 2016. In the video on his Facebook page, Piyush calls such allegations of sexual misconduct a ‘pattern’ against those activists who take on the government. "On the seventh day, when my wife applied for bail, Kiruba Munuswamy wrote an article about me, [stating that] I have not filed RTI, I have not gone to jail and that I stole bamboo. In the end she says that I told her that only owls have sex with one partner [all their lives] but we are humans. She leaves it at that. She doesn't make any charges that I pulled her by hand or leg. The article goes viral because someone scolds her using her skin colour.” 

Piyush also names the woman activist who complained against Mugilan.

Piyush's video at this juncture, dragging in Kiruba's name, has been slammed by many as his effort to discredit her work in the public sphere and rake up a controversy.

‘Open to inquiry’

Piyush reiterated on Thursday that he was open to an independent enquiry regarding the allegation of sexual harassment. “With regard to the accusations of sexual misconduct, theft of bamboo, financial malpractices and disproportionate accumulation of wealth that Kiruba Munusamy has made against me . I am open to an enquiry either by police, court or by an independent and fair panel with members recommended by Kiruba Munusamy.” (sic) he wrote on Facebook.

The lawyer was widely body-shamed soon after she made the allegations; supporters of the activist posted casteist, colourist and sexist comments in response to her post. Condemning the discriminatory responses from his supporters, Piyush had said, “The crass responses of certain people purporting to support me were brought to my notice. I unequivocally condemn the casteist and sexist nature of those remarks.” 

Update: In a Facebook post on Saturday (July 13), Piyush acknowledged that while he reserved the right to defend himself, he had failed to foster an environment that encourages victims of sexual misconduct to be able to seek resolution for grievances in a fear-free atmosphere as he had named the complainant in the rape case against Mugilan.

"I understand that my post, including the recent one, has vitiated the atmosphere and generated comments that are degrading and abusive to Ms. Munusamy on videos posted by her as reply. While I do wish to set the record straight on the allegations levelled against me as a thief and sexual abuser, my actions were not intended to degrade the atmosphere for a fair process for all concerned esp the complainant in the Mugilan case. Therefore, I am withdrawing the video and invite members of the civil society to kindly constitute a committee that will establish the veracity of the various allegations levelled against me." he wrote.

Read: Me Too: Why many women don’t speak out about sexual abuse ‘immediately’

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