President's son terms Delhi women protestors 'dented-painted', apologises

Kolkata/New Delhi, Dec 27 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit, a Congress MP, has landed in a controversy following his comments running down women who had been participating in the mass protests at Delhi after the Dec 16 gang-rape of a trainee physiotherapist.

Not only did Abhijit's sister Sarmishtha express "utter shock and anguish" at the remarks, she also apologised and asked her brother to do the same. Later Thursday, Abhijit offered an unconditional apology for his comments.

Speaking to a regional television channel in his earlier assembly constituency Nalhati in Birbhum district on Christmas Day, Abhijit Mukherjee said that "highly dented-painted" women visited discotheques and then appeared at India Gate to protest the Delhi bus gang-rape.

He also said the "Sundari, Sundari (beautiful) mahila (women)" were divorced from ground realities. He also wondered whether some of them were at all students.

"What's basically happening in Delhi is somewhat like Egypt or elsewhere, where there was something called the Spring Revolution, which has very little connection with ground realities.

"In India, staging candle-light marches, going to discotheques - we did all this during our student life too, we were students too - I know very well what kind of character students should have."

"Those who claim to be students - I can see many beautiful women among them they were highly dented-painted - they're giving interviews on TV, they've brought their children to show them the scenes.

"It's fashionable to attend protest marches now.

"I have grave doubts whether they're students because women of that age are generally not students," said Abhijit, who was elected MP from Jangipur Lok Sabha seat in Murshidabad to fill up the vacancy caused by his father's elevation to the presidency.

Abhijit's comments soon became viral on the net, and criticism flew thick and fast, embarrassing the nation's first family no end.

Soon, his sister Sarmishtha stepped forward to undo the damage. "I am quite surprised and disappointed with what my brother said. I apologise on his behalf," said the danseuse.

"I express my utter shock and anguish. I really apologise to every women, man and every sensitive person in this country".

"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," she said in New Delhi.

To a query as to whether Abhijit should apologise, 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," Sarmishtha said.

She also said her father would disagree with Abhijit's view.

In a tight spot, Abhijit apologised and withdrew the "dented-painted" comment.

"I withdraw the particular sentence 'dented and painted' women. I have no intention to insult any woman," he said.

There was large-scale outrage in the capital as protestors, mainly students, gathered in large numbers to express their agony over the rape of a paramedical student Dec 16.

Some of the protestors even took to violence and there were clashes between them and the policemen.