Chennai: Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit on Wednesday apologized after journalists and political parties condemned him for patting a woman journalist on the cheek when she raised a question at a press conference at Raj Bhavan in Chennai on Tuesday.

Expressing his “regret and apology", Purohit defended himself, saying, “I considered that question to be a good one. Therefore, as an act of appreciation for the question that you had posed, I gave a pat on your cheek considering you to be like my granddaughter."

Lakshmi Subramanian, a senior journalist working for the English-language magazine The Week, responded, “I accept your apology, even though I’m not convinced about your contention that you did it to appreciate a question I asked."

On Tuesday, she had asked a question to Purohit, who, without replying, patted her cheek.

Political parties and leaders condemned Purohit’s action. On Wednesday, Chennai witnessed protests by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and other opposition parties who demanded that the Governor step down following the allegations.

DMK leader M.K. Stalin said Purohit’s action was “unbecoming of someone who holds a constitutional post."

Some 200 journalists sent a signed letter to the governor demanding an apology, while the Chennai Press Club and the Network of Women in Media, India condemned his action.

The journalists’ letter said, “…touching a lady without her consent is a crime under the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998."

Following the incident, Subramanian said that Purohit “patronizingly—and without consent—pat me on the cheek." She added, “This, moments after he dismissed a barrage of questions about allegations of sexual misconduct against himself. Unprofessional behaviour and completely uncalled for to touch a stranger without her consent, especially a woman."

At the press meet, Purohit had denied allegations linking him to a woman assistant professor arrested for allegedly persuading students into extending sexual favours to officials.

Nirmala Devi, an assistant professor at a private college under Madurai Kamaraj University was arrested on Monday after an audio tape of her encouraging students to please higher officials in return for marks and money became public.

In the audio clip, the assistant professor claims to know Purohit, who is the chancellor of the university.

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