'Words are loaded pistols,' wrote French philosopher-novelist Jean-Paul Sartre. Abhijit Mukherjee, President Pranab Mukherjee's son and the Congress MP from Jangipur in West Bengal, would now do well to internalise these golden words, especially after the hammering he got from all sides for his sexist remarks on anti-rape (women) protesters. Speaking to a TV channel on Thursday on the protests that have rocked Delhi for the past few days after the rape of a 23-year-old woman on December 16, the MP said that it's "fashionable for [a] section of people to hold protest marches…they come all dented and painted". In an already charged atmosphere, the MP's comment added more fuel to the fire. Though he issued an "unconditional apology" for his remarks, the damage had been done. Even though the Congress did not take any disciplinary action against him, party chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday stressed that no time should be lost in bringing the perpetrators of the barbaric gangrape to justice. The president, too, is reportedly upset with the comment.
While the "dented-painted" comment is deplorable, the MP is not the first one to make such insensitive remarks; there have been many before him. And be assured, there will be many more because mindsets take time to change and, in some cases, politics overrides everything else. So while on the one hand we had khap leaders suggesting that women get raped because men eat chowmein which causes hormonal imbalance, on the other, we had Guja-rat chief minister Narendra Modi asking his voters: "Have you ever heard of a Rs 50 crore girlfriend?" Sometimes, women politicians are no different from their male counterparts. Even as we were writing this editorial came another shocking comment by Trinamool leader Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar. She called the Park Street rape case of February 5 a misunderstanding between "a lady and her client". In fact, her boss, Mamata Banerjee, had accused the victim of being a part of a conspiracy against her government and also gave a bizarre explanation for the rising number of such cases: "Rapes are happening because men and women are interacting more freely".
And then why blame the politicians always? At a seminar, Anita Shukla, a scientist at the Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vidyalaya, Gwalior, said had the Delhi rape victim surrendered, she would not have lost her intestine, and then went on to ask why was she out with her boyfriend at 10 pm. Ms Shukla, we may as well reiterate, was speaking at a seminar on women's empowerment. We knew that India is not a gender-sensitive country. But these comments, coming from such eminent men as well as women, show the depth and spread of gender insensitivity.