Controversy
VT Balram’s insinuation that AK Gopalan was a paedophile has offended many.

Thrithala Congress MLA VT Balram finds himself at the centre of a controversy yet again, this time for a comment on Communist icon and leader of opposition in the first Lok Sabha AK Gopalan (AKG). 

In a Facebook post on Friday, he questioned AKG’s moral character for marrying a woman who was several years younger to him, and that too, while he was still legally married to his first wife.  

But what has offended many is VT Balram’s insinuation that AK Gopalan was a paedophile who fell in love with his second wife Susheela while she was about 12 or 13 years old. 

Balram first accused AKG of being a paedophile as a reply to a comment by a Facebook user who had questioned the alleged sexual harassment of Saritha Nair by various Congress leaders. 

Later, in a much more elaborate FB post on Friday evening, Balram said, “On December 20, 2001, the Hindu paper had carried a piece titled ‘Love in the time of struggles’. The author of that report in his article said that “after a decade long love” AKG in his middle age married Sushila. Going by history, we know that Sushila was 22 years old at the time of her marriage. It is not too hard to think of Sushila’s age when their relationship started.

The report adds that AKG used to meet Sushila in hiding at her house in the early 1940s when they met for the first time and later the relationship grew. Sushila was born in 1929 which means in the early 1940s, the girl had hardly attained the age of 12.

AKG himself had written about his fondness towards the little girl, with an arguably likeable personality, and later, on his decision to take her as his life partner. He even writes about his guilt in the initial stages and how he later overcame it. He has also written in his autobiography about the love-struck Sushila, waiting for AKG’s release. They decided to get married soon after his release. And while he is still legally wedded to his first wife, AKG gets married to Sushila.

It can be read in his autobiography, the fascination that a girl of Sushila’s age can have towards a man who literally built up a political institution and the soft corner the leader had for her (a minor).

AKG can be an idol-like figure for many. His contributions in the political field are to be applauded. But that doesn’t mean his personal life cannot be criticised or not spoken about in the public domain. Earlier, writer Paul Zacharia was cornered for his opinion on the issue. Such an act of intolerance is not acceptable at all times.”

Balram’s comment has led to much ire with a lot of people pointing out that the morality of one era cannot be applied to another. Many have gone ahead and reminded him that a lot of people in those times married early, including Mahatma Gandhi. 

Reacting to the post, Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said, “Balram has to apologise for his remarks on a leader like AKG who voiced the troubles of the poor throughout his political career. We have only seen praises coming in from across party boundaries, hailing AKG’s bold political movements in the past. How can anyone forget the land eviction protest that AKG led in Idukki? One cannot expect people to forgive such comments on AKG.”

Kerala high court lawyer Harish Vasudevan said, “AKG was not just the opposition leader in India’s first Lok Sabha. He was also someone who gifted a chapter in the Indian constitution on fundamental rights. MLA VT Balram has raised a tasteless allegation against a leader which even his political adversaries have never made against him. Balram, either you should prove your allegations against AGK or you should tender an unconditional apology.”

Meanwhile, correspondent Stanly John of The Hindu demanded an apology from VT Balram and said, “As a politician and an elected representative of the people, you can’t get away with this, Balram. If not you, your party leaders should explain this. The same party that stalled Parliament a few weeks ago over PM Modi’s nasty comments and lies on former PM Manmohan Singh and other distinguished leaders. Apologise and withdraw the comment. Show some maturity, for this country’s sake.”