Thereās a rebellion within the Tamil Nadu Brahmins Association (TAMBRAS), months after a #MeToo allegation was made against its president, N Narayanan. On Monday, TAMBRAS members from over 20 districts met in Palani and passed a motion to replace Narayanan. Over 700 members were present at the forum which was called for after the TAMBRAS general secretary refused to hold a general body meeting, as requested by several district heads of the association. However, Narayanan has refused to step down.
In October 2018, as the #MeToo movement was in full force, playback singer Chinmayi Sripaada had tweeted allegations made by an unidentified woman against the TAMBRAS president. The woman alleged that Narayanan had made sexually-laced remarks and gestures at her when she visited him for advice on securing a job. Narayanan had dismissed the allegations and claimed that they were fabricated. But a group of members had demanded that he step down in order to allow for an inquiry to be conducted.
"When anybody questioned him about this, he would tell them to leave the association. He even initiated disciplinary action against them," said Ganesh Iyer, a member of the faction against Narayanan. "But considering how serious the allegation was, we appointed a lady member to look into it, without his involvement. She verified with the victim and the victim's family, and prima facie, there was truth to the allegations. We then approached Narayanan with the proof we gathered and told him we must conduct an official enquiry. He simply refused to hear our arguments," he added.
When attempts to reason with the president allegedly failed, a letter was written to the general secretary, asking for the general council body to be convened. The request was however denied.
"We did a signature campaign and got the signs of districts heads across the state and submitted a request for a council meeting. We clearly stated that he was not willing to address allegations that were tarnishing the image of the association," said Ganesh. "According to bye-law 120 of our association, if the general secretary doesn't agree to the meeting, we can get a joint secretary to hold the general body meeting. We did that in Palani on Monday and removed Narayanan as President. We need only one-sixth of the member strength to move the motion and have functioned as per the rules of the organisation," he added.
When TNM contacted the head office of TAMBRAS in Chennai however they denied the change in leadership.
"The meeting was held by a group of members against whom disciplinary action was taken," said Mayilai R Babu, state secretary of TAMBRAS. When pressed for a reason for the action, he said, "When nobody was talking about the Me Too allegations, these people unnecessarily brought it up in October. There is no police complaint and yet they were making false allegations."
General Secretary of TAMBRAS TNG Shankar also put out an official denial of the change in leadership.
"We have nothing against Narayanan personally. He has led TAMBRAS for 18 years," said Ganesh. "There have been allegations of financial fraud in the past but we have not overhauled for it. But now, it is a matter of women's safety and harassment. We cannot remain silent."