Bahujan Samaj Party Rajya Sabha member Rajpal Singh Saini has touched off a controversy, saying girls should not be given mobile phones because “their misuse could land them in trouble”.
Saini, a former minister in the erstwhile BSP government in Uttar Pradesh, spent Monday vehemently protesting misinterpretation of his remarks made at a private function on Sunday evening.
At a meeting of the Saini Samaj in Muzzafarnagar district, 125 km northeast of Delhi, Saini told the audience about his interaction with a person who came to him because his daughter had eloped.
“I asked him if he had given mobile phone to his daughter. The person said yes. He was a poor vendor. I asked him the utility of giving a mobile phone to his daughter,” news channels reported Saini as telling the audience.
“Don’t give mobile phones to children, especially girls. I say this at all the places where I make my speeches. And if any of these kids have a mobile, take it away. What are they missing anyway? What are the girls missing without mobiles,” Saini said.
“Our mothers, sisters... did they die without mobiles during their time,” he added in his address.
Saini’s suggestion, apparently aimed at protecting women, comes close on the heels of a series of similarly unique ideas. Earlier this month, khap leaders in Haryana were forced to backtrack after suggesting lowering the marriage age of girls to 16 to stop rapes in the state. A khap leader even blamed the rapes on chow mein, saying eating such fast food led to “hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts”.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee too courted controversy this month, saying boys and girls were “mixing freely” in a changed global world.
Facing a backlash over his remarks, which social groups branded as sexist, Saini accused the media of twisting a personal conversation. “This is a conspiracy by my rivals to malign my image. How can a person live without a mobile phone in present times?”