President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit stoked a major controversy by describing women participating in Delhi protests against gang-rape of a student as 'highly dented and painted', triggering angry backlash.
"Those who are coming in the name of students in the rallies, sundori, sundori mahila (beautiful women), highly dented and painted," Abhijit
Mukherjee, an MP from Jangipur seat which the President had vacated before his election, told a vernacular news channel.
"Giving interviews in TV and showing off their children. I wonder whether they are students at all," he said, adding, "what's basically happening in Delhi is something like pink revolution, which has very little connection with ground realities."
As his "insensitive" remarks sparked outrage with even his sister Sharmistha expressing "utter shock and anguish" and apologising on his behalf, Abhijit "withdrew" his comments and said they were not meant to hurt "any particular section or any particular sentiment".
"I express my utter shock and anguish. I really apologise to every women, man and every sensitive person in this country... I am utterly shocked and only thing I can say is that I really apologise on his behalf... I am quite surprised with what my brother said," Sharmistha said.
Asked whether Abhijit should apologise for his words, she said, "I completely agree. He should immediately
"Not only as a President's son, but as any sensitive man, he should not have made this kind of statement. Forget about being a political leader, it shows a certain degree of insensitivity... My family is not like that," she said.
On whether her father would be embarrassed with Abhijit's remarks, Sharmistha said, "I am sure he will be. I can say that he also shares my view.... One thing is for sure that he
(Pranab) does not agree with his (Abhijit) views. I am sure. He (Pranab) has made a statement and during our personal interactions, he expressed his anguish."
Soon after Abhijit said, "I apologise to all the people whose sentiments who got hurt because of these sentences and these sentences are withdrawn" but the women activists and political leaders were unimpressed.
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said political leaders cannot be allowed to get away with a mere apology after making such "outrageous and highly condemnable" remarks "demeaning women" and there should be a code of conduct for elected representatives.
Jaya Jaitley said the women will not be "cowed down" by such comments and it will only add strength to the movement. She said the comments have revealed the true mindset of the people.
"If it is what he has said, it is truly regrettable. I think that is so far away from reality. As a representative of the people, obviously this is an insensitive statement... That is why the suffering is increasing," former IPS officer and social activist Kiran Bedi said.
Terming the remarks as unfortunate, Smriti Irani, chief of BJP' women wing, said it was especially distressing as they had come from the President's son and that too at a "challenging time" when not only women but men have come out on streets demanding justice and safer environment for women.
"I think this is exactly the kind of mindset that the youths are fighting against," she said.
Her party said the comments reflect the Congress mindset of not addressing the problem and instead attacking peaceful protesters.
"To criticise the common people who are taking out candle light march peacefully is not fair. Congress leaders should avoid such comments," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told
"Mukherjee should not have given such a statement. These comments show the Congress mindset of not addressing the crisis and criticising the protesters," he added.
Abhijit had said, "Walking in candlelight processions, going to discotheques, we have also led student life, we have been students. I well know what the character of a student should be."
Prominent women rights activist and director of Centre for Social Research (CSR), Ranjana Kumari said, "I am really sorry about the way he is thinking and talking. So, so irresponsible. Coming from a family of such a senior and seasoned politician, respected person, President of India's son."
I think this speaks volumes about the mindset, the way they look at women, the way they describe women, Kumari said.
".... To talk like that is really demeaning the protest and extremely irresponsible. I totally condemn what he has said and he should
apologise. This is not acceptable. He might be the son a President but what kind of comment is this. Really looks like a lewd remark," she said.
Social activist Subhasini Ali termed the remarks as "atrocious" and "insulting" to women.
"Just using these two words in the context of women is so insulting and to say that these were not students but 'dented and painted women', I cannot imagine something more insulting," she said.The full text of Abhijit Mukherjee's statement on television (translated from Bengali):
basically happening in Delhi is a lot like Egypt or elsewhere, where
there's something called the spring revolution, which has very little
connection with ground realities. In india,
staging candle-lit marches, going to discotheques - we did all this
during our student life too, we were students too - I know every well
what kind of character students should have. Those who claim to be
students - i can see many beautiful women among them - highly
dented-painted (sic) - they're giving interviews on TV, they've brought
their children to show them the scenes. I have grave doubts whether
they're students, because women of that age are generally not students.'