Kolkata: President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit stoked a major controversy on Thursday by describing women participating in Delhi protests against gangrape 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 later "withdrew" his comments and said they were not meant to hurt "any particular section or any particular sentiment".
His sister said: "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."
Asked whether Abhijit should apologise for his words, she said, "I completely agree. He should immediately apologise.
"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."
Abhijit later said he was misquoted and added: "I apologise to all the people whose sentiments who got hurt because of these sentences and these sentences are withdrawn" but the women activists and political leaders were unimpressed.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 said.
"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."
The protesters also condemned Abhijit's statement saying this proves his mentality.
"This proves the mentality of Mr Abhijit Mukherjee who has equated women with object. It is shameful and condemnable. It proves the mentality of those in Government," a protester, Kavita Krishnan, said at the protest site.
Angry social media users slam Pranab's son
Users of social media like Facebook and Twitter on Thursday went hammer and tongs against President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit for terming Delhi's women protesters after the Dec 16 gang-rape as "dented-painted".
While some cried "shame" angrily condemning the Congress Lok Sabha member for the "insensitive' comments, others called for stripping him of the house membership and his "re-education".
Journalist-turned-filmmaker Utpal Borpujari was scathing.
"The politicians, in their public speeches/media interviews, often talk about the need to change the mindset of the society to stop many ills, but who will change their mindset? The demeaning comments against women have come from politicians across party lines and gender at different times, and Abhijeet Mukherjee is only the latest to join the list.
"Shame on this insensitive class," said Borpujari in a Facebook post.
Another scribe Nabeel Khan called the comments "filthy" on Facebook. "Dada says girls' make up n disc invite violence...then.. can he sight 1 exmaple whr men have been attacked 4 looking gud or visiting disco?"
Even Congress leader Om Prakash Mishra called the comments "deplorable", though he pointed out that Mukherjee has "expressed regret and apologised".
However, Facebooker Sanjukta Chakraborty flayed Mishra for referring to Mukherjee's apology.
"Sir after making such a disgusting comment is it enough to express regret and apologise ? What steps will your party take to censure him ? If HE cannot show respect to a woman does he deserve to be a people's representative?
"He should be stripped off his MPship. We do not want men with such regressive ideas to represent us in Parliament."
On twitter, Farhan Akhtar graded the comments as "all time low".
Retired supercop Kiran Bedi twitted that Mukherjee needs "-re-education".
But a more damning twit came from Abhijit Majumder. "Tempted to change my name after the comment by Abhijit Mukherjee. Difficult to live down this extent of imbecility by a namesake."
However, a sarcastic Anant Rangaswami saw the lighter side of it. "After "dented-painted", #AbhijitMukerjee is India's greatest living exponent of nonsense verse," he tweeted.