In a world where skin tone based biases are being viewed with increasing hostility, Union Minister Subhas Sarkar recently singled out Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore for his "not-so-fair complexion". In remarks that have since gone viral, the Minister of State for Education contended that while members of Tagore family were fair-skinned, the famed poet was not.
"Due to this, his mother and other family members did not cradle him in their arms or sat him in their laps," he informed the assembled audience during an event at West Bengal's Visva-Bharati University.
While it was not immediately clear why the remarks had been relevant or necessary in the first place, Sarkar stands by his comments. According to a report by Anandabazar Patrika, he had defended his remarks despite the brewing controversy and backlash. "I wanted to increase respect for Rabindranath," he said, adding that he was ready to "give links" to anyone countering him.
Needless to say, the comments have not gone down well with social media users. While some marvelled at the problematic nature of the claim, others wondered why it had been a topic of conversation in the first place. "The point being in today’s context? That in spite of being dark Tagore became famous? What a cretin this man is," read one outraged tweet.
A section of the internet was also quick to point out that this was a Minister linked to the Education department, voicing concerns about his work or questioning his sources. "You missed the part about Rabindranath Tagore being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, the first non-European to do so," jibed another.
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