Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has cancelled his scheduled visit to Chennai on Saturday to attend a special convocation at SRM Institute of Science and Technology to confer an honorary doctorate on poet and lyricist Vairamuthu, The Hindu reported on Friday.
Last year, a number of sexual harassment allegations against Vairamuthu had come to the fore during the #MeToo movement. Singer Chinmayi Sripaada had alleged that Vairamuthu had harassed her on two separate occasions. She also shared on social media anonymous accounts of other women in the entertainment industry and inmates of a hostel run by Vairamuthu in Chennai, all accusing the lyricist of inappropriate behaviour and harassment. Vairamuthu denied the allegations. Sindhuja Rajaram, an artist and musician based in California, United States, also alleged that Vairamuthu had repeatedly harassed her over phone after she met him when she was 18.
A spokesperson for the university claimed the minister had to cancel the trip because of urgent commitments in connection with the Citizenship Amendment Act. Another chief guest would attend the special convocation ceremony on Saturday, he added.
On Thursday evening, Sripaada had questioned the defence minister’s decision to honour the lyricist, pointing out that Singh was supposed to head a high-level committee that the Narendra Modi government had promised after the #MeToo movement. “Not only did the committee never meet but in just a year, honourable Mr Singh awarding a man who is an ‘open secret’ is supposed to instil what confidence in women like me exactly?” she asked.
A few Bharatiya Janata Party supporters and functionaries also urged Singh to boycott the event, accusing Vairamuthu of sparking a controversy with a speech on poet-saint Andal, The News Minute reported. A few Hindutva outfits were also planning to stage a protest in front of the university on Friday, according to The Hindu.