West Bengal lawmaker Abhijit Mukherjee, son of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, kicked off a political storm in India on Thursday with what critics are calling chauvinistic comments against women who are protesting the recent Delhi gang-rape incident.
"Those who are coming in the name of students in the rallies, sundori, sundori mahila (beautiful women), highly dented and painted, giving interviews in TV and showing off their children, I wonder whether they are students at all," Mukherjee, also an MP from Jangipur seat, told a local television channel. "What’s basically happening in Delhi is something like pink revolution, which has very little connection with ground realities."
Earlier, speaking from his hometown during Christmas celebrations, he said: “It is fashion of a section of the community to hold protest marches just like visiting a discotheque. These sections do not have any connection with the people from the grassroots. They come decked up and painted.”
"We were also students. This section doesn't appear and behave like students," Mukherjee added.
Two days later, as his comments drew sharp reactions from different sections of the country, Mukherjee promptly retracted his statement, a leading daily, the Hindustan Times, said.
His remarks come at a time when the sub-continent is rocked by a series of protests, especially by youth and women, over an apparently increasing number of sexual crimes against women in the country. The protests erupted after the Dec. 16 gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus in New Delhi by five men and a juvenile, raising concerns over the safety and security of women in India.
The protests have continued ever since the incident occurred, although the police has used force -- including water cannons to tear-gas shells -- to disperse the protesting women and young adults.
The rape victim is in critical condition, and she was airlifted to Singapore for special treatment Wednesday night. Several new cases of rape were reported in the last week, with victims of varied ages and backgrounds, from toddlers to disabled women.
Mukherjee’s remarks dismayed individuals and commentators and have become an embarrassment to his father, President Pranab Mukherjee.
His sister and the President’s daughter, Sharmishtha Mukherjee, expressed shock over her brother’s comments and apologized on his behalf in an interview to a leading television channel, CNN-IBN.
"I don't know in what context my brother said that, it's highly insensitive. I'm embarrassed," she said adding: "My father certainly would disagree with my brother's view. I humbly apologize on my brother's behalf. I'm disappointed."
However, later while speaking to the CNN-IBN, Abhijit withdrew his "dented-painted" remarks and apologized for the mistakes.
"I withdraw the particular sentence 'dented and painted' women. I have no intention to insult any woman," he told the channel.
Nevertheless, the damage was done. Local media were quick to slam the MP over the derogatory remarks, while celebrities and netizens flooded social networking sites to vent their wrath. Some expressed shock and outrage over the law maker’s insensitivity, while others mocked the system. The name “Abhijit Mukherjee” was also trending in the top position on Twitter at the time of writing this article, pushing Bollywood actor Salman Khan to second place.
Among the popular sentiment on twitter were these comments:
Aria @adagio_aria: “What Abhijit Mukherjee said reflects how most mango Indian men perceive women ! They should be dented, painted and muted like furniture!”
Sarika Bhattacharyya @BizDivasIndia: “Need to ask Mr Abhijit Mukherjee, politician and son of our President Pranab Mukherjee, is his mind dented?”
Joy @Joydas: “Somewhere P A Sangma is thinking how to use Abhijit Mukherjee's statement to demand Pranab Mukherjee's disqualification.”
Fake IPL Player @_fakeiplplayer: “Abhijit Mukherjee is trending worldwide. What father couldn't do, son has. Pranab da must be so proud.”
Nilanjana Roy @nilanjanaroy:"What's happening in Delhi is like the Pink Revolution, conducted by people who have no idea of ground reality." (Abhijit Mukherjee)
Sir Dard @SahilBulla: “Hey Abhijit Mukherjee, you can apologize about Dented and Painted as much as you want but we all know you Meant-ed.”
Aishwarya Sharma ♛ @aishwaryashrees: “We were fighting for security and safety now we also need to fight for our DIGNITY! Abhijit mukherjee shame on you!”
Vikas K Sinha:Can Pranab da say "I Am proud of my son today" for Abhijit Mukherjee?? #Shame.”
60ml of Soco @SocoMumbai: “Dint the PM just say he has 3 daughters n now we get the Prez's Son making idiotic statements against women lib WTF #Abhijit Mukherjee”
Anshul Agrawal @tura_anshul: “Abhijit Mukherjee made it big. Trending above Salman Khan on his birthday. He will be saying ‘Mission Accomplished’”
Dr.T.K.Nair @DrTKrishnanNair: “Leaders like Abhijit Mukherjee indirectly incite criminals to commit rapes. Election Commission should take strong measures against them.”