New Delhi: He may have thought he was cracking a ‘joke’ but Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar ended up courting controversy on Saturday by saying in a speech that women from Kashmir could be “brought to Haryana” for marriage now that Article 370 has been scrapped. He was speaking at a state-level function in Fatehabad and was commenting on the success of the Centre’s flagship Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao program.
“Our Minister O.P. Dhankar used to say that we will have to bring daughters-in-law from Bihar. Now people have started saying that since Kashmir is open, we can bring girls from there,” he can be heard saying in this video from the event.
Haryana is infamous for its abysmal sex ratio and concerns about the killing of girl children. In fact, Khattar was talking about the importance of having a balanced sex ratio when he ‘joked’ about women from Kashmir. “Earlier, the sex ratio was 850 against every 1,000 boys. Now it stands at 933 in the state,” news agency ANI reported him saying. He credited the Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao program for this change and said this was a better way to deal with the problem than looking to bring women from other states.
Khattar’s comments triggered a wide variety of responses on social media, especially since the first report – by ANI – did not provide any context for his remark.
While many have harshly criticised the CM, others claimed his statement was taken out of context and that he was referring to a popular joke to make an important point about how the state had improved its sex ratio and why it is important to maintain a balanced sex ratio.
Kashmiri women are not your cattle Mr Khattar. Repulsive. https://t.co/1eRks8dw35
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) August 10, 2019
The Congress’s Rahul Gandhi also criticised Khattar. “Haryana CM, Khattar’s comment on Kashmiri women is despicable and shows what years of RSS training does to the mind of a weak, insecure and pathetic man. Women are not assets to be owned by men,” he said in a tweet.
Khattar’s remark also stood out because this was not the first time a BJP leader or right wing voices on social media had spoken of the ‘availability’ of Kashmiri women in the context of the scrapping of Article 370 of the constitution. Huffpost recently reported about videos surfacing on the app TikTok by Hindu men saying they would now “get girls” from Kashmir.
Vikram Singh Saini, BJP MLA from Khatauli in Muzaffarnagar, made similar remarks at a meeting of party workers on Monday. He said BJP workers were very excited at the prospect of marrying fair-skinned Kashmiri women.
Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal has demanded an FIR on Khattar for his statement. “He should be ashamed of his statement. A CM is using the language of a road-side Romeo. Women are objects for him,” she tweeted.
शर्म आनी चाहिए @mlkhattar को इस वाहयात बयान पे! सड़क छाप रोमीओ की भाषा मुख्यमंत्री बोल रहा है! महिला इनके लिए वस्तु है!
PM कश्मीर के लोगों को विश्वास दिलाने में लगे हैं की पूरा देश उनके साथ है, तब ये नालायक़ CM अभद्र बातें कर हिंसा भड़का रहा है! इनपे हर हाल में FIR होनी चाहिए! https://t.co/8YF9ilPm0f
— Swati Maliwal (@SwatiJaiHind) August 10, 2019
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) also issued a statement criticising such comments regarding Kashmiri women. Comparing it to the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, Giani Harpreet Singh from the SGPC said that Sikh women were targeted by “people of the same mentality” in 1984 and that they will not allow a repeat of the situation.
This is not the first, or even second, time Khattar has been criticised for his statements on women. At a function in Haryana’s Panchkula district last year, he said that women file false rape cases after “small fights”.
In January last year, he accused opposition parties of politicising incidents of rape in the state. He has also in the past blamed sexual violence on the way women dressed. “If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way,” he said in 2014. “If you want freedom, why don’t they just roam around naked? Freedom has to be limited. These short clothes are western influences. Our country’s tradition asks girls to dress decently,” he had responded when asked about freedom of choice.