Mother Swaraj: When Sushma hugged, kissed, showered love on HIV+ kids… tallest Cong leader Antony came across as political pygmy

Another insensitive Cong MLA wanted hapless children to be thrown out of school; a journalist’s Facebook post becomes viral

The Congress bid to embarrass one of the best performers of the Narendra Modi government, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, through a Twitter survey backfired with a majority of respondents rejecting the Congress contention on her performance. Adding insult to injury, Swaraj retweeted the outcome of the Congress poll. When the issue became a talking point at the national level, MS Sanil Kumar, a Thiruvananthapuram-based journalist, put up a post on his Facebook page which revealed the greatness and humane side of Swaraj, while, at the same time, tearing apart the ‘idealist’ mask of senior Congress leader and Sonia Gandhi’s Man Friday AK Antony (who is also called St Antony for his idealism), and Congress MLA Prahapa Varma Thampan. The post has become viral with many people congratulating Sanil Kumar for penning his experience in an honest way “quite unlike the CITU members of his tribe, who populate and pollute the Malayalam media space”.  “Malayalam media is infested with lumpen and CITU types with no morals whatsoever. Banality rules the roost,” said Dilip Xavier, a netizen.

Sushma Swaraj with Benson and Bency.. Photo courtesy: Frontline

Sanil Kumar writes (translated from Malayalam; not in verbatim):

Sushma Swaraj was the Union Health Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. At that time, I was working as a reporter in Surya TV’s Thiruvananthapuram bureau. It came to our notice that two HIV-positive siblings Benson and Bency were thrown out of their school after their HIV-positive status became public. Their parents by then had died of AIDS. The school authorities refused to allow them to attend classes after parents of other children threatened to withdraw their wards from the school if the two children were allowed to study in the school.

MS Sanil Kumar

The siblings were looked after by the grandparents who did not have any means to support them. The society ostracized the family. So, we decided to take up this issue. Along with Roy Mathew of Zee TV, Bobby Nair of NDTV and Rajesh Divakar of CNBC, I went to the school in Chathannor where the siblings were studying. We were joined by Asianet’s Kollam correspondent Vinu V John.  When we reached the school, a Parent-Teacher Meeting was underway. The Congress leader and local MLA Prathapa Varma Thampan presence was in no way helping things. He was trying to vitiate the whole atmosphere and argued that the children should not be permitted in the school. He said other children would contract the disease. We recorded the proceedings. We also tried to reason out with the MLA who shouted at us. We then went to the house of hapless children. The situation there was pathetic. They didn’t have money for food or medicines. Locals and shopkeepers were not cooperating with the family. They boycotted them. We recorded everything and we aired the programme. It aroused national consciousness.

AK Antony

We got in touch with the office of then chief minister AK Antony. When we told him that the family and the siblings wanted to meet him, he agreed. Thus we (Divakar, Roy Mathew and me) along with Benson and Bency went to the chief minister’s chamber. Antony was seated on a chair. Roy Mathew gently pushed the children towards Antony. Shocked, he rose from the chair and stood close to a corner. He didn’t care even to touch the kids.

Prathapa Varma Thampan

Roy Mathew then contacted PRO of Hindustan Latex Ltd Lalu Joseph to find out whether the PSU could provide some financial assistance to meet their medical needs. Lalu informed us that Union Health Minister Sushma Swaraj would be visiting the company the following day and he would draw the minister’s attention to this issue. As promised Lalu conveyed the issue to Swaraj who immediately said the PSU would provide financial assistance to meet the medical needs of the hapless children. When Swaraj came to address a Press Conference at the Thiruvananthapuram Press Club, we brought the two children before her. Immediately, she hugged them warmly and kissed on their foreheads. We were ecstatic. For a moment, it was felt that the kids who lost their mother were experiencing the motherly love. Before she left, she announced medical assistance to the children. In this context, I remembered Congress MLA Prathapa Varma Thampan who wanted the children to be thrown out of the school and AK Antony who insensitively kept a distance from the children.

Sanil Kumar concludes his post with a sarcastic plea to Congressmen. “Dear Congressmen, now you put marks for Sushma Swaraj.”

Post Script: Bency, one of the siblings, died at the age of 15 years in 2010, five years after her grandfather passed away, leaving behind her brother and grandmother.