National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam today demanded an apology from actor Kamal Haasan for publicly identifying a Malayalam actress who was abducted and sexually assaulted in a moving car in Kerala. Kumaramangalam, through a text message to PTI, confirmed that a letter had been sent to the actor asking him to apologise or retract his statement, after the NCW suo motu took cognisance of the matter. Meanwhile, in Chennai, Haasan said he was ready to apologise but “U r penalising the lawyer & missing criminals.” He also said he will “bend” to no woman or man for “no reason.” “Apologise say women, while I love & fight 4 them. I will bend 2 no woman or man 4 no reason. U r penalising the lawyer & missing criminals,” he said in one of a series of tweets in an apparent reference to the NCW move. He further said : “Can’t name her? Name her after my mother or my daughter. This war will be fought. Yeh hai Mahabharath katha. Jago My lady bharath. Salaam.” he said in another tweet.
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He went on to say “If you still want me to apologise I will. No one is above law…except your gods. God is no reason just a ruse for some.” The actor, speaking to the media on Wednesday, had named the actress while answering a question on the security of women in the film industry. When it was pointed out that sexual assault victims should not be identified, he had said, “It doesn’t matter if I have used the name. You have put out her name everywhere. Do not hide the name as there is nothing wrong with it. If you want to call her Draupadi, call her Draupadi. Don’t call her ‘a female’.” Kumaramangalam said the actor’s statement revealed the “patriarchal mindset” among “VIPs, big guys…whether they are in politics or not in politics”. “It also shows lack of humility in him and that’s what we are going to say (in the letter). It is very arrogant to say that somebody else has said it so I will say it too,” she said, adding that the letter would be sent soon.
Haasan, is “undoubtedly a brilliant actor, but that doesn’t give him the right to say something “so insensitive”, said Kumaramangalam. Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code bans the disclosure of the identity of victims of certain offences, including sexual assault, barring specified circumstances. Violation of this can be punished with a fine or imprisonment which may extend to two years. “He (Kamal Haasan) can’t be booked by us but someone else like the victim herself or fans can lodge a protest. The police can do it on their own also. When someone like him who has billions of fans says something like this, it sets a bad precedent,” said Kumaramangalam. The NCW chief also said all that the actor had to do was apologise.
“If he has made a mistake it won’t make him small to say that ‘I am sorry’. In fact, he doesn’t even need to use the word ‘sorry’ — he could just say, ‘I didn’t mean to say it’. People of his stature should have the common sense and humility to understand the sensitivity of such situations,” she said. Kumaramangalam, who conceded that she felt “strongly” about public figures being “insensitive”, had issued a notice to actor Salman Khan for “trivialising rape” in a press meet in Mumbai last July. Haasan’s reference was to an actress of Malayalam films who was abducted and raped in February this year.