National Commission for Women Chairperson Rekha Sharma on Monday noted an allegation of sexual harassment against newly-appointed Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and asked for his resignation, PTI reported.
Sharma alleged that in 2018 Channi had sent an “inappropriate text message” to a woman Indian Administrative Service officer.
The women’s panel chief said that she was “shocked and utterly disappointed” with the appointment of a “MeToo accused” to the chief minister’s post in Punjab.
The #MeToo movement in India 2018 saw several women take to social media to speak about incidents of sexual harassment they had faced.
Sharma on Monday urged Congress President Sonia Gandhi to remove Channi as the chief minister, ANI reported. “Today [Monday], he has been made Punjab CM by a party that is headed by a woman,” she said. “It is a betrayal.”
The National Commission for Women chairperson claimed that Channi was a threat to the safety to women and said that an investigation should be initiated against him. “If he doesn’t come clean, he is not worthy to be the chief minister,” she told ANI.
Sharma said that Gandhi did not consider the accusations made against Channi before picking him as the chief minister, PTI reported.
The women’s panel chief asked how women in Punjab could feel safe if the state’s chief minister himself was accused of threatening their security. “If an IAS officer has been denied justice in the state, how can the Congress ensure that the common women of Punjab would be safe?” she said.
The National Commission for Women chairperson said she did not want other women to endure what the IAS officer did. “Channi needs to be held accountable and should resign from the post of CM,” she added.
The sexual harassment accusation against Channi resurfaced in May 2021, The Indian Express reported. Manisha Gulati, the chief of Punjab’s Women’s Commission, had sought a report from the state government on the action taken against Channi, who was then a minister.
Gulati had threatened to sit on a hunger strike in case the Punjab government did not inform her about its stand on the matter, according to the newspaper.
Channi, the first Dalit chief minister of Punjab, took oath on Monday. The Congress had announced his appointment on Sunday, a day after Amarinder Singh resigned as chief minister.
The Bharatiya Janata Party brought up the sexual harassment allegation against Channi after the announcement.
On Sunday, the party’s IT Cell chief Amit Malviya tweeted: “Congress’s CM pick Charanjit Channi faces action in a 3-year-old #MeToo case. He had allegedly sent an inappropriate text to a woman IAS officer in 2018. It was covered up but the case resurfaced when Punjab Women’s Commission sent notice. Well done, Rahul.