Human resource development minister Smriti Irani was in for a surprise when her comment that women are not dictated in India and are not told what to wear and whom to meet drew sharp reaction from the audience.
Irani made the statement during an interview with eminent US journalist and Women in the World Summit founder Tina Brown.
“In India, I don’t think any woman here is dictated what to wear, how to wear, whom to meet, when to meet....I am of the opinion, I don’t think anybody is dictated here, you are not told,” Irani said.
@CatchNews that awkward moment when those who claim free speech not possible openly boo n get a calm response:)— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) November 20, 2015
Later in the day, when her comments led to criticism on Twitter she tweeted: “that awkward moment when those who claim free speech not possible openly boo n get a calm response (sic)”.
Her remarks drew sharp reactions from the audience and many from the crowd disagreed with her statement that made Irani interact directly with the audience and she asked: “Are you told? I am sorry. I am not. My apologies ladies.”
She maintained that as she did not come from a celebrated family but a low middle class family she was told to determine her own future.
However, she did maintain that there are challenges that everyone has to face across the world. Citing an example of Halloween in US she said that students are urged not to wear provocative costumes. She said that prosperous area like South Mumbai has a high rate of female foeticide and it would be naive to assume that problems like domestic abuse and female foeticide are more in rural areas.
Emphasizing that India is secular where oath, even at the highest level, is taken on Constitution and not any religious book Irani said that though the photo of Goddess Lakshmi is not on our currency notes we have all the languages on it. “We have all languages of India on a currency note that is how secular we are”.
Asked about the raging debate on intolerance, Irani said that “India is aware of its challenges but is also adept in handling those challenges through rule of law.”
When asked whether she chose the HRD portfolio and whether it was a daunting task she said that being the minister is not scaring. “No one else but people like me can understand the importance of education.. with education and true knowledge comes humility,’ she said.