Writer and journalist CP Surendran has stepped down as a director of the annual Mathrubhumi Festival of Letters, weeks after several women accused him of sexual harassment, reported The News Minute on Thursday. The website of the Kerala-based literary festival has removed his name from the list of directors.
“The festival organisers had a meeting in which the issue was discussed,” Mathrubhumi Managing Director Shreyams Kumar told The News Minute. “There, Surendran decided to step back from the festival. He had expressed that something like this [allegations of sexual harassment] is spreading. He said that it is just an allegation and there is no truth in it, but that it should not become a problem for conducting the festival.”
The position of director was not an appointed one and was on a consulting basis, Kumar said.
Several women accused Surendran of making sexually coloured remarks and suggestive comments. Some women said that Surendran touched them inappropriately. The accusers include his former colleagues from The Times of India, where he worked from 2003 to 2006 and again in 2010-’13, at Open magazine, where he worked from 2008 to 2009, at DNA newspaper, where he worked from 2013 to 2015, at Arré, where he was creative director in 2015, and at Harper Collins Publishers India, with whom he has published two novels and a book of poems.
Surendran had earlier responded to Scroll.in’s request for comment on the allegations: “I have never meant to give grief. I have not made obscene comments or gestures...This is the lynch mob at work.”
A group of journalists and authors had on Wednesday written to the organisers of the festival, urging that he be asked to step back from this year’s edition. Their letter urged the organisers to “support the victims and survivors, rather than the perpetrator of sexual misconduct and harassment”.
Surendran was among several journalists, media professionals, actors, writers and corporate executives who were accused of sexual harassment in the #MeToo campaign in India last month.