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RSS Pracharak to Alleged ‘Playboy’: The Fall of Meghalaya Governor

Shillong Raj Bhavan does not deserve to be called a ‘Young Ladies Club’ merely because the Governor brought disgrace

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Shillong Raj Bhavan, located in a sprawling acreage in the heart of the city, with its gentle undulating meadows and a heritage building to boot, deserves better than to be called a ‘Young Ladies Club’ merely because its incumbent, an RSS pracharak who was bamboozled by the very opulence of the place and was therefore a misfit there, brought disgrace to this august office.

It’s ironic that 26 January, a day when the country celebrates Republic Day, should also be that ominous day when the Governor of a state has to step down in disgrace.

Also Read: Meghalaya Governor Quits Over Charges of Running ‘Ladies Club’

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Shillong Raj Bhavan does not deserve to be called a ‘Young Ladies Club’ merely because the Governor brought disgrace
Activists holding protests in Shillong, demanding resignation of Meghalaya Governor V Shanmuganthan. (Photo: Andrew Lyndem/Facebook)

Allegations From a Female Interviewee

It all started last year when the Governor decided that he needed a smart Public Relations Officer (PRO). An interview was conducted by a duly constituted board and some names were shortlisted. All those who qualified were women. When voices were raised against this gender bias, some young men were also called for personal interviews but they lost out there.

The interviewees who were shortlisted, all young ladies, were then called by the Governor to meet him personally. He said he wanted to have a tete-a-tete with them. One of the interviewees sent the Governor a text message asking him when and at what time she should come. He texted back saying she should come on 8 December at 7 pm. She registered her name at the gate at 6:55 pm on the appointed day.

It was here that the unsuspecting young lady found the Governor’s body language and his personal queries about her life ‘weird’ as she calls it. He then said that she looks like the Bollywood actor, Deepika Padukone. The young lady might have taken all these compliments with a pinch of salt. What she wanted was the job. But before she left the room where she found herself with only the Governor, he came closer and hugged her and planted a kiss on her cheek.

The young lady was shocked beyond words. She walked out of Raj Bhavan not knowing who to talk to. No job aspirant would have expected such overtures from a prospective employer.

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Shillong Raj Bhavan does not deserve to be called a ‘Young Ladies Club’ merely because the Governor brought disgrace
Photo of the Governor’s House in Shillong. It has been alleged that the Governor V Shanmuganthan had turned Raj Bhavan into a ‘Ladies Club’. (Photo: Bromio Marak/ Facebook)
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Power Spoilt the Pracharak

It was then that she sent a text message to another job aspirant, a journalist who had also been interviewed earlier for the same post but was not shortlisted. She narrated her discomfiture to the journalist and said, “He hugged and kissed my cheek. I was so shocked… I just pulled away and made a very awkward face.”

These text messages were the basis of the story that rocked the Shillong Raj Bhavan. And to make matters worse, the eighty-odd staff of Raj Bhavan rose up in near revolt and penned down their grouses against Governor V Shanmuganathan. They alleged that he employed a young lady from Assam who operates his social network accounts from her bedroom which is right next to his.

In fact, the Raj Bhavan staff have stopped short of saying that Raj Bhavan is a cathouse! What however enraged them was the Governor’s high-handed attitude and his habit of humiliating them for minor lapses. The Deputy Secretary suffered a stroke in October 2016 on account of the dressing-down he got from Shanmuganathan. He passed away a month later. Clearly power had gone to this pracharaks head who claimed when he first entered the Raj Bhavan that he worked to eliminate dowry in his state of Tamil Nadu.

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Pressure from Civil Society

Two civil society organisations mounted the pressure on the Governor. On 26 January, Civil Society Women Organisation (CSWO) and Thma u Rangli (TUR) held a demonstration outside the Shillong Raj Bhavan, demanding immediate removal of the Governor. They did a signature campaign to mobilise the support of locals and show their solidarity with the Raj Bhavan staff.

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State Home Minister Under the Scanner

For Meghalaya, 2017 could not have been worse. It started with the arrest of Julius Dorphang, a surrendered militant leader-turned-lawmaker on charges of raping a 14-year-old girl, who was allegedly being supplied to him by people who had brought her to Shillong from Ichamati, ostensibly for a job as housemaid. Not only was this petite and undernourished little girl raped on two occasions by Dorphang but he even got violent with her. Now she has spilled the beans and many more people have been arrested for raping and abusing her regularly.

What’s shocking is that the girl was also raped by Dorphang at Marvelline’s Inn, a guest house owned by the Home Minister HDR Lyngdoh’s son. Women NGOs have demanded that the home minister should step down as he too is culpable. He could not have been ignorant of the sex-trafficking business that was being carried out surreptitiously in his son’s guest house. Chief Minister Mukul Sangma is yet to take action. But the same chief minister has been quick to point fingers at Shanmuganathan.

The Dorphang case gained notoriety because of his profile but many other cases of rape have been reported on the first week of this year. Between 31 December and 1 January 2017, a young lady was gangraped at Mawryngkneng village lying between Shillong and Jowai. Several other rape cases have also been reported from the Garo Hills and other outlying areas of Meghalaya this month. This curse just does not seem to go away. And to think that Meghalaya is a matrilineal society where the girl child and women are supposed to be treated with dignity and respect! What irony indeed!

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Shillong Raj Bhavan does not deserve to be called a ‘Young Ladies Club’ merely because the Governor brought disgrace
On 26 January, Civil Society Women Organisation (CSWO) and Thma u Rangli (TUR) held a demonstration outside the Shillong Raj Bhavan, demanding immediate removal of the Governor. (Photo Courtesy : Angela Rangad / Thma u Rangli)
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Culture Shock Took its Toll

Coming back to Governor Shanmuganathan, it would appear that he could not handle the sudden power that the Raj Bhavan bestowed on him. By his own admission, this man had never visited Meghalaya before he was anointed its Governor. The culture shock must have been such that he mistook the easy manner of women in Meghalaya who live independent lives and move around without hindrance as being an invitation to sexual exploitation.

Men coming from societies where women are oppressed often misread the attitude of tribal women. Their liberal lifestyle is misconstrued as licentiousness. This inability of BJP and RSS pracharaks to grasp and understand the myriad cultures of this country is what is doing the party the biggest disservice. Hubris is dangerous but when the concoction also includes ignorance then the combination is toxic.

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Time to Abolish the Office of Governor

Since the BJP came to power, there have been many Governors who painted themselves into a corner. JP Rajkhowa, former Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, is a good example of a Governor who acted as a BJP henchman. He had to be removed after he dismissed a duly elected government.

The office of Governor is at best a decorative one. It is better adorned by men and women of impeccable antecedents. But on hindsight this is one office that India can do away with. It’s a huge burden on the public exchequer and quite frankly, it’s a superfluous position.

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(The writer is the Editor of The Shillong Times and former member of NSAB. She can be reached @meipat. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Also Read: How Delhi Shot Itself in the Foot in Arunachal Pradesh

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