As an eruption of outrage on television hit Abhjit Mukherjee, the Lok Sabha MP from Jangipur in Bengal issued an apology and withdrew his remarks. His sister, Kathak exponent Sharmishtha Mukherjee, told The Indian Express she was “shocked and furious”, and that these were not the views of the other members of the President’s family.
Rashtrapati Bhavan declined to comment officially, but Sharmishtha Mukherjee was quoted by PTI as saying she was “sure” that her father did not agree with her brother, and that he would have been embarrassed.
PTI quoted Abhijit Mukherjee as saying the President had asked him to apologise. “As a father, he (the President) also asked me what prompted you to say that. You are in public life and definitely it will create controversy. You must apologise. I said I have already done (so). My intention was not to hurt anyone. Not to undermine the agitation,” the MP said.
The comments which became widely known on Thursday were made by Abhijit Mukherjee in Nalhati (Birbhum) on Wednesday and in his constituency Jangipur on Tuesday.
In Jangipur, he said, “Dilli-te shundor-shundor meyera rong-chong mekhe andolan korte jachchhe... aar kaaj nei, shomoy kata-te jachchhe... (In Delhi, beautiful women are putting on make-up and going out to agitate. They have nothing better to do, so they are going to pass the time.)”
In Nalhati, he said that many of those rushing to the protests in Delhi were not students, “onek activist, rajneeti dhuke porechhe (many activists, politics have entered)”, “Dilli hujug-er jaayga, agitation kaar against-e hochchhe bojha jaaye na (Delhi is a place driven by illogical whims, it is difficult to understand what they are protesting against)”.
He compared the Mamata Banerjee government’s alleged inaction in the Park Street rape case with the quick action taken by Delhi Police in the case of the gangrape of the 23-year-old paramedic. In the context of activist and theatre personality Arpita Ghosh, who is considered close to Mamata, participating in the protest, Abhijit Mukherjee said, “E-shob natak, Dilli’r bhasha-i nautanki... (All this is drama, nautanki is the language of Delhi)”.
PTI also quoted Mukherjee as having told a Bengali TV channel, “Those who are coming in the name of students in the rallies... beautiful women, highly dented and painted, giving interviews and showing off their children... What is basically happening in Delhi is something like a pink revolution, which has very little connection with ground reality.” The report did not say when Mukherjee said this.
Sharmishtha Mukherjee, who is younger than Abhijit and lives in Delhi, said, “I am not a politician, bureaucrat or administrator. But the protests clearly show the volcanic eruption of the people; it reflected their anger and anguish. They had every right to protest. I am speaking like an ordinary woman.
“I am shocked and furious, how could he (Abhijit) come out with such a statement? I am a working woman myself, strong and independent. I have been brought up in a completely different environment, but this is not what our family thinks. This is certainly not the way we (the siblings) have been brought up.”
Bengal Congress leaders expressed dismay over Abhijit’s comments. “I am shocked. We condemn this. Abhijit should never have said this. I will talk to him,” Mohammad Sohrab, leader of the Congress Legislature Party, who was also the election agent of both Abhijit and Pranab Mukherjee, told The Indian Express.
Pradip Bhattacharya, WBPCC chief, said: “I have spoken to him. He should not have made that remark. However he tendered an apology and that should be the end of the matter.”
Social activist Subhasini Ali said the remarks were “atrocious” and “insulting”. Actor Sharmila Tagore called them “very sexist”. CPM’s Brinda Karat said the remarks showed a “sickening and perverted” mentality.