With the countrywide chorus rising for his arrest and expulsion from parliament, Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha member Tapas Paul Tuesday tendered an unconditional apology for his “deeply insensitive” rape comments.
With political leaders, eminent personalities and activists baying for his head and the National Commission for Women (NCW) writing to the president and prime minister seeking his expulsion from parliament, the Lok Sabha member, in a letter addressed to his party and the media, sought apology terming his comments a “gross error of judgment” and “deeply insensitive”.
“Some remarks made by me have caused dismay and consternation. I apologise unreservedly for them. Whatever the provocation, those comments should never have been made,” the letter said.
“In making them, I have let down my constituents and the people of Bengal, I have let down my party, the Trinamool Congress, and my political colleagues, I have let down my family, including my wife and children and my parents, and my friends.”
“I apologise to all of them, and particularly to all women in our society and to those in the media who highlighted the issue,” Paul, who was directed by the Trinamool to give an explanation, said in the letter.
Earlier in the day, Paul’s wife Nandini too apologised on her husband’s behalf, although she asserted that he was “provoked” to make the remarks.
“If a CPI-M man dares to touch anybody, I will take out my gun and shoot him. I always carry a gun… I will destroy his entire clan. I warn my opponents… I will make their family pay dearly. I will ask my boys to go there. They will rape them and leave,” Paul was seen saying in the video that has now gone viral.
Even as Paul’s remarks continued to trigger outrage and disgust, another party leader – Bankura district head Arup Chakraborty – was caught on tape asking his partymen to “sacrifice whoever intrudes your home”.
“If any outsider enters your house, cut him down, sacrifice him. I will take care of that, you don’t have to worry,” Chakraborty is seen in the video clip telecast by a Bengali news channel.
He later justified his comments, saying he was talking about the right of self-defence.
“Why should my comments create problems? I have talked about the right of self defence. If somebody attacks my house or is forcibly taking out our women, should I be a mute spectator? Won’t I exercise my right of private defence,” Chakraborty asked.
The row had its reverberations in the West Bengal assembly too, where noisy scenes were witnessed when Congress members staged a walkout after an adjournment motion on the issue was disallowed by the speaker.
Leader of Opposition and CPI-M veteran Surjya Kanta Mishra said his party will file a police complaint at the place in Nadia district where Paul made the rape remarks.
Expressing dismay over the “silence” of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the matter, state BJP president Rahul Sinha said a CD of Paul’s speech will be sent to the Lok Sabha speaker seeking action against him.
While the state women’s panel put the onus on the chief minister, NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma told IANS that the panel was writing to the president, prime minister and the Lok Sabha speaker seeking Paul’s expulsion from parliament for his “atrocious remarks”.
A host of personalities and activists demanded exemplary punishment to Paul and expressed angst and disgust over his remarks.
“I am totally stunned to hear his remarks. I have worked with him and never thought he could utter such things. This is shameful,” said eminent actor-director Aparna Sen.
Amid all the brouhaha, Banerjee, who party leaders said was “extremely pained” at the insensitive comments, refused to comment on the issue though addressing a gathering later, she asserted taking action against her own people.
“If I see someone among us is doing wrong… then I take action against them too. We do this as it is our duty to protect peace and love,” Banerjee said, addressing people in Raidighi in South 24 Parganas district.
Announcing Paul’s apology to the media, Trinamool general secretary Mukul Roy took pride over the party taking “strong action” within a day.
“The incident came to light at 5 p.m. yesterday (Monday). The party has taken a strong stand within 24 hours. Mamata Banerjee was pained and shocked to hear his comments. He (Paul) was asked to issue an unconditional apology to the public.
“As soon as it came to the party’s notice, we made it clear that the party does not endorse the statements. This was a shocking incident. The party will ensure this kind of incident does not happen again,” said Roy.