British journalist Spinney responds to Mullappally's remarks on Kerala minister Shailaja

British newspaper's writer Spinney responds to Mullappally's remarks on Kerala minister Shailaja
KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran (Left) and science journalist Laura Spinney.

British science journalist Laura Spinney has responded to Congress leader Mullappally Ramachandran's accusation that she had done public relations work for Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja.

In response to a tweet that cited the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramachandran's criticism, Spinney said it was the former's prerogative if he wished to politicise her report on Shailaja.

British newspaper The Guardian had on May 14 published a report titled 'The coronavirus slayer! How Kerala's rock star health minister helped save it from Covid-19'. Misquoting the headline, Ramachandran on Saturday said The Guradian had called Shailaja 'a rock dancer'.

Ramachandran made the mistake while defending himself on making derogatory remarks against Shailaja the previous day.

In a protest meet organised in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday, Ramachandran attacked Shailaja calling her 'Nipah princess' and 'COVID queen'.

Ramachandran's choice of words drew flak from various corners. Shailaja's party colleague and CPM politburo member Brinda Karat termed the remarks 'sexist'.

In response to the criticism, Ramachandran on Saturday said he was agitated to see reports about Kerala government's handling of COVID-19 in multiple international media.

Rubbishing the charges that his remarks were misogynist, Ramachandran said "The Guradian called Shailaja a rock dancer, and nobody found fault with it'.

Twitter user Rashmi tweeted about Ramachandran's allegations and tagged Spinney, seeking a response from her.

In reply Spinney wrote, "If @MullapallyR wishes to politicise the story that's his prerogative. When I used the term "rockstar", I was quoting others. @shailajateacher has however been the subject of a feature film for her successful handling of another outbreak -Nipah virus."

She also included a link to the Wikipedia page of the film Virus, a realistic thriller directed by Ashiq Abu about Kerala's handling of the Nipah virus outbreak.

Ironically, Shailaja had criticised the filmmaker for portraying her as a weak character in the film.

Spinney, in her article, wrote about how Shailaja started preparing for the coronavirus outbreak as early as in January, consulting the experts in her health department. She also writes about the former school teacher's upbringing as a communist.

Shailaja was featured on a number of international media, including Washington Post, BBC and The Guardian for her effective handling of the coronavirus crisis in the Indian state of Kerala.

Laura Spinney is a science journalist and author who frequently writes for The Guardian.

Her latest book is 'Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World'. Many Keralaites have thanked her for her response to the Congress leader.

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