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Kerala’s IUML under fire for disbanding women’s wing that complained of sexual harassment 

IUML Monday also removed its student outfit’s vice-president as she came out in support of the complainants. Party has accused its women student wing of ‘indiscipline’. 

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New Delhi: The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), an ally of the Congress in Kerala, has triggered a controversy as it has dissolved the state committee of its student outfit’s women wing — Haritha — whose members had levelled allegations of sexual harassment against their male counterparts. 

On Monday, the party also removed Fathima Thahiliya, the national vice-president of its student wing, the Muslim Student Federation (MSF). 

Thahiliya had come out in support of the complainants. She had said that the complainants did “not get natural justice” and she along with the other women were “character assassinated on social media”. 

In a written statement, IUML national president K.M. Khader Mohideen said the party had decided to remove Thahiliya from the post for “grave indiscipline”, in line with the recommendations of its Kerala state committee. 

This came even as the IUML was being heavily criticised for ‘freezing’ the state committee of Haritha in August over “indiscipline”, and then disbanding it in the first week of September after its members refused to take back the complaint. 

Days after dissolving the committee, the IUML had Sunday appointed a new committee to head the women’s wing. 

The IUML has appointed Ayesha Banu, a member who wasn’t party to the complaint, as the new president of Haritha. The manner in which the party has dealt with the matter has led to uproar among many of its younger members — particularly women.

The IUML, however, has defended its move, saying that it was in response to “violating discipline” of the party.

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‘Sexually vulgar, ugly language’— the allegations

The members of Haritha had alleged that at a state committee meeting of the MSF in June this year, the body’s president P.K. Navas had “used sexist and derogatory language” against the women members.

“He had used sexually vulgar and ugly language to describe the women members. We protested it,” Najma Thabsheera, the disbanded Haritha general secretary, told ThePrint. Thabsheera said words like “prostitute” and “infertile” were used to describe the women. 

“We wrote multiple complaints to IUML leaders. We kept running from one leader to another, but got no help. No one empathised with our situation,” she added.

Haritha members then wrote to the Kerala Women’s Commission, which wrote to the Kerala Police to take up the matter.

The police Friday filed an FIR against Navas and subsequently arrested him on the same day, but released him on bail soon after. ThePrint reached Navas through phone, but he declined to comment on the matter. 

Women members disappointed, but IUML defends move

Women members of the IUML, particularly those from Haritha, have expressed disappointment at the party’s handling of the case. 

“We were such proud members and followers of the IUML ideology. We would defend it everywhere, and now they have so easily thrown us under the bus,” Thabsheera said.

She added that the other women members of the party too are “hurt and disappointed”.

“IUML is a party that is supposed to represent the grievances of Muslims — a marginalised minority. Similarly, women are a marginalised group too. But they don’t care about us,” she added. 

IUML leaders, though, defended their move. 

Speaking to ThePrint, E.T. Muhammad Basheer, the national organising secretary of the IUML, said “no one has a right to violate party discipline”.

“We had settled the matter internally. The men who were accused had expressed their regret and made it clear that their intention wasn’t wrong,” Basheer told ThePrint. “But the very next day, members of Haritha went and made public statements on the issue. That is not done.”

Basheer further dismissed allegations of the party being ‘anti-women’.

“These are baseless allegations. We have had women leaders in the past, we really value Muslim women’s entry and representation in politics. So this is not true,” he said.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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