Kerala: Mayor Arya Rajendran stands firm on allegations against KSRTC driver

"When women face these difficulties, people ask why they don’t react immediately. I am suffering here for reacting immediately. The mayor is also a human being,” Arya Rajendran said.
Thiruvananthapuram Mayor Arya Rajendran
Thiruvananthapuram Mayor Arya Rajendran
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The controversy over Thiruvananthapuram Mayor Arya Rajendran’s argument with a Kerala State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus driver escalated after heated arguments and protests erupted inside and outside the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation on April 30, Tuesday. BJP and Congress workers protested near the secretariat and outside the corporation office. Opposition party members also staged a walkout from the corporation council meeting, questioning the mayor’s public conduct. 

After the incident, Arya delivered an emotional speech where she nearly cried. "When women face these difficulties, people ask why they do not react immediately. I am suffering here for reacting immediately. The mayor is also a human being. If I say more, I may become too emotional, so I will not elaborate. I have heard media reports claiming that I fabricated the story to trap the driver, stating it was merely an issue of the bus not giving way. If you had checked the video, you would hear my brother asking the driver what gesture he showed; this is audible in the video," Arya said in a broken voice.

BJP councillor K Anilkumar had questioned her conduct, asking why she did not inform the councillors about this. In response, Arya asked, "I agree that I am everyone’s mayor. If you were concerned about that, why didn't you call me at least once to check or to know what exactly happened?"

UDF councillor P Padmakumar remarked that even if the allegations raised by the mayor were true, she should have behaved according to her position rather than blocking the bus and causing difficulties to the passengers. He demanded that she should apologise for her behaviour.

Over the past few days, there have been primetime media discussions about the mayor's behaviour, with less emphasis on her allegations against the driver. The mayor mentioned that certain media outlets do not even bother to check the video of the argument between her family and the driver.

The issue happened when Arya Rajendran and her family, who were travelling in a car, blocked a KSRTC bus and questioned the driver over his alleged misbehaviour. Arya has alleged that the driver made vulgar gestures towards the women (Arya and her sister-in-law) in the car. Following the mayor’s complaint, a case was filed against the driver, Yadhu, on April 28, under Section 354A (sexual harassment) of the Indian Penal Code.

Addressing the media on April 29, Mayor Arya stated that the incident was one of sexual harassment and not merely an issue of overspeeding as certain reports suggested. “I request you all not to reduce it to an incident of road rage,” she said. 

There were five people in the car that she and her husband and MLA Sachin Dev travelled in –  a Wagon R – including the mayor’s brother, his wife, and another relative. Arya stated that when the car turned from Plamoodu to PMG, the KSRTC bus approached rashly from one side and nearly brushed past them. When Arya and her sister-in-law looked at the bus, the driver allegedly made a vulgar gesture with sexual connotations, she said in her complaint.

On the other hand, KSRTC driver Yadhu denied all the allegations, accusing the mayor and Sachin Dev of using their power against a common man like him. Though he filed a complaint with the police regarding the delay of the trip and causing difficulties to passengers, the police did not register a case. He was also asked to take leave from work for a few days.

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