New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Monday witnessed a furore over Sharad Yadav’s remarks on women’s complexion, as sharp words were exchanged between the JD-U leader and Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani.
The comments created a ruckus in the upper house after union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked the member to withdraw his comments.
The Janata Dal-United chief said his comments last week on women’s complexion were misinterpreted and refused to apologise. He said he was ready for a debate on the topic.
Yadav, during the debate on the insurance bill in the Rajya Sabha last week, spoke on India’s obsession for fair skin. “Your god is dark like Ravi Shankar Prasad, but your matrimonial ads insist on white-skinned brides.”
Referring to the complexion of south Indian women, he said: “The women of the south are dark but they are as beautiful as their bodies… We don’t see it here. They know (how to) dance.”
He got away lightly when he made the comments last week, as several members laughed over them. Only DMK leader Kanimozhi had protested.
On Monday, Prasad said: “Comments were made on south Indian women, I was also mentioned, I remained quiet. I want to keep myself away from that comment.”
“I completely disagree with the comment. Ask the member to withdraw the comment,” he urged the chair.
Trying to clarify, Yadav said his comments were misinterpreted.
“There are more dusky women in India and in the world… I can discuss the issue with anyone, we are in favour of Indian culture.”
Irani, responding sharply, said the member (Yadav) should not comment on the complexion of women in any way.
“I appeal through you (chair) to the gentleman, do not make comments about the colour of any woman’s skin. You (Yadav) are a senior member, a very wrong message is going to the rest of the country,” she said.
Yadav responded by saying: “I strongly refute the allegation.”
“From (Mahatma) Gandhi to (Ram Manohar) Lohia, I have all the record of what has been said about women. A lot of struggle has been done for women with dark complexion,” he said, to which Irani responded by saying: “Please don’t do this.
Naming Lohia and Gandhi and commenting on women.”
Kanimozhi joined Irani in her protest against Yadav. “Women from all parties are together, we demand a regret on it,” she said.
Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien said he would not allow a discussion on the issue.
“White complexion or dark complexion, it is all the same, I am not allowing a discussion on this,” Kurien said.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the issue should not be discussed as it will get more complicated.
Yadav, however, said he was ready for a discussion.
“There has been a long struggle against discrimination based on colour… I am ready to participate in a debate any time,” he said.
Women leaders on Monday slammed the JD-U leader outside the house also.
Kanimozhi said: “The issue is why women’s body and colour was being discussed in a such a derogatory way in parliament.”
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat said: “The time has now come for a code of conduct for our members of parliament and that should be very strict as far as use of languages is concerned. These are senior leaders and what they say influences people.
“It is shocking that none of the other MPs said a word,” she said.
Yadav, however, decided to brazen it out by humming a popular song — “Mora Gora Rang Laile” — from 1960s Bimal Roy-directed film “Bandini” to justify his point.