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Nurse chorus against Vishwas

Nurses thrash brooms, the AAP symbol, in Delhi on Tuesday. (AFP)

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan. 21: Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy today joined the chorus for action against Aam Aadmi Party leader Kumar Vishwas, who has been accused of making “racist” comments about nurses from the southern state.

In a letter to his Delhi counterpart and AAP boss Arvind Kejriwal, Chandy said the comments were an insult to civilised society and sought immediate action against Vishwas.

Chandy’s letter came in the wake of protests over a video clip of a speech Vishwas made in Ranchi. The clip has gone viral in the social media and was picked up by Malayalam TV channels.

In the speech uploaded on YouTube, Vishwas is seen deriding the nurses as “kaali peeli” and that many of them never uploaded their photos on their Facebook pages.

His comments drew a sharp response from the nursing community in the state, which accounts for the largest number of nurses in the country. Two Malayalee nurses who perished in the December 2011 fire at AMRI Hospitals in Calcutta had been awarded the Florence Nightingale Nurses Award in 2012.

The Kerala Government Nurses Association president, O.S. Molly, said Vishwas’s statement was “sexist and racist”.

“Nurses from Kerala have been serving in different parts of the world and making significant contribution to the Indian economy. I don’t understand what his state of mind is in dividing us on the basis of colour,” Molly said.

“Those justifying his statement say it was a light-hearted jest. But then there has been no apology coming forth. The situation is such that we have to take up brooms to protest,” she warned, referring possibly to the AAP symbol.

Molly said the association had called a meeting of its state secretariat tomorrow and if Vishwas did not “tender an apology before that, we will think of the next course of action including legal action if necessary”.

CPM Rajya Sabha MP T.N. Seema demanded registration of a case against the AAP leader, Rahul Gandhi’s possible challenger in Amethi. “The comment is cheap, immature and unlawful. Nurses have been facing a lot of problems in Delhi and if this is the state of mind of those who should be working to alleviate their concerns, the situation is dangerous.”

Asked if the AAP should expel Vishwas, Seema said the party appeared to be suffering from an “ideological vacuum”.

“Each leader is saying what they want to. Those who stand up against Kejriwal will be expelled, but I doubt if they have any system to act against people who make such nauseating remarks.”

BJP national executive member P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said the comment reflected the AAP’s “failure” to even comprehend the country’s cultural diversity. “They have not been able to attain even the minimum maturity required for leading a political party, let alone the country. It’s a reflection of the contradiction which took shape as they hijacked an ideological movement against corruption and used it for their selfish ends to gain power.”

Apparently incensed over the video, unidentified men vandalised the Kochi office of the AAP yesterday. The state leadership of the AAP had initially sought to play down Vishwas’s comment, saying it was a light-hearted jest and that the speech was made in 2008.

But with protests intensifying, the party’s state leaders today expressed regret.