| Abhijit Mukherjee. Telegraph picture |
Calcutta/Delhi, Dec. 27: Congress MP Abhijit Mukherjee from Jangipur, Bengal, today apologised, 48 hours after his comments on women protesters in Delhi against the gang rape of the student evoked an avalanche of criticism, including from his wife Chitralekha, sister Sharmistha and party colleagues.
“Those who are coming in the name of students in the rallies, I can see many of them are beautiful women, highly dented and painted they are,” Mukherjee had told an ABP Ananda cameraman on Christmas Day.
Mukherjee, the elder son of President Pranab Mukherjee, made the “dented and painted” remark when asked to comment on the protests in Delhi.
In the face of outrage across the country, the first time parliamentarian, who had contested the Jangipur seat after his father became President, apologised and withdrew his remarks.
“I make an unconditional apology for what I had said about women protesters in Delhi. I had made the comment in response to a specific question and I have no intention to hurt anybody,” Mukherjee said tonight.
However, he said that it was “wrong to associate the President’s office with my statements”. “I am withdrawing what I had said,” Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee’s wife Chitralekha told The Telegraph over the phone from Delhi tonight: “I strongly condemn what my husband had said about women protesters in Delhi after coming to know about it from television channels. He should not have made such unsavoury comments that must have hurt all women, including me.”
Chitralekha also rallied behind the women protesters in Delhi. “As a woman, I am of the opinion that those who launched a protest in Delhi against gang rape were quite justified. Time has come for all women to raise their voices against such a heinous crime against an innocent student,” she said.
Chitralekha said she would ask her husband what had prompted him to make “such unsavoury statements” when she would get an opportunity to speak to him.
Mukherjee’s sister Sharmistha also corroborated what her sister-in-law had said. “I don’t agree to what my dada had said about women protesters in Delhi. I think he should not have said such things against women and apologised for what he had said.”
Police ‘meddle’ probe
A joint secretary in the Union home ministry will probe a magistrate’s charges of interference by Delhi police in recording the statement of the gang rape victim.
Sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Usha Chaturvedi had alleged interference by at least three senior police officers when she went to record the statement of the 23-year-old girl at Safdarjung Hospital over the weekend.
The joint secretary is likely to question the policemen handling the gang rape case and those who interacted with the victim, sources said.
Chaturvedi’s complaint had prompted Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit to write to Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde about the alleged “interference”.
The chief minister’s letter, whose contents were leaked, had sparked a controversy and led to a face-off between the police and the Delhi government, prompting the ministry to order the probe.
The Delhi government yesterday insisted that police chief Neeraj Kumar, who had contested Chaturvedi’s claims, has no authority to comment on functioning of the magistrate.
“The police commissioner is not an authority to take a decision on the conduct of the SDM,” state chief secretary P.K. Tripathi said after a cabinet meeting presided over by chief minister Dikshit.
Asked whether the issue was being exploited to get political mileage, Tripathi rejected the allegations and said: “No politics is taking place.” Sources said the cabinet meeting discussed the allegations by Chaturvedi, who has said at least three senior officers interfered in her job.
Dikshit and her son, Lok Sabha member Sandeep Dikshit, have asked for police chief Neeraj Kumar’s removal following widespread protests and the subsequent police action against the demonstrators on Sunday. The Congress has distanced itself from the demand.