An alleged derogatory comment made by Trinamool Congress leader Kirti Azad on Khasi attire has stirred controversy in the Northeast, with the chief ministers of at least three states in the region condemning it.
The former cricketer, however, maintained that he was not disrespecting the dress but commenting on the “fashion statement” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Azad had shared photographs of Modi donning ‘jymphong’, a traditional Khasi dress, during a public meeting in Shillong on December 18, and a woman model wearing a similar dress, with two lines in Hindi that triggered the controversy. However, he deleted the tweet later.
The chief ministers of Meghalaya, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh condemned Azad’s comment and demanded an apology, while state TMC leaders could not be reached.
“It is unfortunate that the TMC leader had to make that statement. It was very insulting to the people of our state, especially to Khasis,” poll-bound Meghalaya’s CM Conrad K Sangma told PTI on the sidelines of a programme here.
“It was an insensitive statement and the political party concerned must apologise for insulting our people and culture,” he said.
The National People’s Party leader also demanded apology from TMC leaders in the state.
The BJP also reacted strongly to the controversial tweet, with the party’s state president Ernest Mawrie saying, “Mocking the attire worn by PM Modi is very sad. The PM respects and proudly wears the traditional attire whenever he visits our state.”
The BJP leader urged people not to vote for TMC in the upcoming assembly elections due early next year.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chief Minister of neighbouring Assam, tweeted, “It is saddening to see how @KirtiAzaad is disrespecting the culture of Meghalaya and mocking our tribal attire. TMC must urgently clarify if they endorse his views. Their silence will amount to tacit support and thus will not be forgiven by the people.”
Sarma’s Arunachal Pradesh counterpart Pema Khandu also expressed condemned Azad’s tweet.
“Dear @KirtiAzaad ~ Your making mockery of rich tribal traditions of Meghalaya, and our rich tribal heritage, is contemptuous and abominable. Your language is pitiable, and an affront on the dignity of womanhood. I condemn it,” Khandu said in a Twitter post.
While Azad deleted the original tweet, he put out another Twitter post clarifying himself.
“I have not disrespected the attire, I love it. I am trying to express that our Prime Minister loves to make a fashion statement. Never misses and opportunity,” he tweeted.
TMC leaders in the state remained unavailable for comments despite repeated attempts to reach out to them.
Elections to the 60-member House in the northeastern state are due early next year. The TMC has emerged as the main opposition party with a section of Congress MLAs led by former chief minister Mukul Sangma having joined the ruling party in West Bengal.
Party supremo Mamata Banerjee and her nephew and party national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee have also recently visited the state and called upon people to defeat the ruling NDA government. (PTI)