Calcutta, July 18: Two womens organisations today protested against the publication of a graphic in The Telegraph that depicted the states top five administrators in saris.
The visual accompanied a report about the state of inertia in the administration.
In a letter handed over to The Telegraph today, Maitree, an organisation working for the rights of women, said it was shocked to see the graphic on the front page of the paper where you have portrayed men from the administration in saris suggesting that their inaction makes them women.
The implication, thereby, is clearly that women are inactive and incompetent, the letter said. This is both a demeaning and humiliating stance towards women and we are amazed that a leading English daily holds such regressive attitudes and views.
Before handing over the letter, members of Maitree staged a demonstration in front of The Telegraph office, demanding that the paper apologise.
The Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Mahila Samity, a CPM-backed womens organisation, said the visual exposes very clearly the entrenched patriarchal attitude that lies hidden behind the apparently super-modern and liberal façade of your newspaper.
Referring to a sentence that accompanied the visual — We apologise to women who may feel the elegant sari has been wasted on our administrators — the organisation said that it is, in fact, a crude mockery of womens sense of seriousness of occasion.
For some months now, Bengal has looked like a state without an administration. Fridays bandh and the unchecked vandalism on its eve further demonstrated the lack of will on the administrations part to enforce the law.
In yesterdays paper, the five top administrators were depicted as men in saris to illustrate the paralysis of government draped in humour.
Some of our readers and others have taken affront, seeing in it an assumption that women are weak. It is possible some may have associated the administrators in the graphic with women, which was not the intention of the visual device at all. We are sorry if the graphic gave that impression.
Some others have, however, expressed appreciation of the political message we sought to communicate and the humour.
The Telegraph practises gender equality. It also believes that women have long grown beyond stereotypes as the weaker sex in saris. Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee are just two examples of women in positions of strength. There are a million other unknown women — in saris or business suits — in whose daily shows of strength we rejoice in the pages of our newspaper. We hope our readers will see the Gang of Five in Saris in that context.
We also hope despite all its divisions, true to 19th century poet Ishwar Guptas words — Eto bhanga Bangadesh, tobu range bhara — Bengal still enjoys a good laugh.