Goa's Public Works Department minister Sudin Dhavalikar on Tuesday sparked outrage across the country for demanding a ban on women wearing short skirts to nightclubs and urging them not to drink or wear bikinis.
Dhavalikar, a cabinet minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government, told reporters on Monday night that women wearing revealing clothes to night clubs and beaches often led to crimes in society.
"Young girls wearing short skirts in nightclubs are a threat to the Goan culture. This habit of young girls wearing short dresses everywhere does not fit the Goan culture. What will happen to it if this continues? We should not allow this. It should be stopped," he said.
The minister also requested women not to drink "because it is not good for their health".
Dhavalikar told news channel NDTV, who had asked him to clarify his statement, that women shouldn't wear bikinis either. "For their own protection on public beaches, women should not wear bikinis. I am not against wearing bikinis in private places," said Dhavalikar.
His comments on Tuesday triggered outrage, with the Opposition as well as women's rights groups accusing Dhavalikar of moral policing.
The Congress in Goa is planning to present the minister with a mini-skirt in protest.
"Let him see for himself. We are sending him a brand new mini-skirt. Let him see for himself that popular party clothes have very little to do with disrespect to one's culture," Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat said.
Several women's rights activists in Delhi have come out strongly against Dhavalikar's statement. Kavita Krishnan of the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) said such politicians should improve their culture first before telling others how to behave.
Dhavalikar's comment comes on the heels of a similar statement by Sri Rama Sene chief Pramod Muthalik, who wants to start a unit in Goa ostensibly to stop women from wearing short skirts, to end the "culture of drugs, sex and nudity", and to preserve "Indian culture".
Dhavalikar, a member of a regional party called the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, also said he agreed with the arguments made by Muthalik, whose group came into the limelight after its members attacked young men and women for drinking alcohol in a Mangalore pub.
"What he (Muthalik) is saying is not all that wrong," Dhavalikar said.
Dhavalikar's wife Jyoti is a volunteer for Sanatan Sanstha, a right-wing organisation which was one of the hosts for the all-India Hindu convention in Goa last week, where Muthalik made the controversial comments.
Muthalik backs Dhavalikar
Muthalik, while speaking to PTI separately, said he supported the Goa minister.
"Dhavalikar is one of the important persons in the state. He has realised how pub culture has increased. That is why he has made such a statement," Muthalik said.
"I am thankful to the minister. There are several people in BJP and Congress who are in tandem with our ideology but they are afraid that if they speak in open, they will face wrath," he said. "There are several people who want our culture to be preserved."
(With inputs from IANS and PTI)