KOLKATA: An Indian lawmaker apologised Tuesday after he was captured on video threatening the rape of his political rivals’ relatives, in what he said was “a gross error of judgement”.
Tapas Pal of the All India Trinamool Congress Party admitted his remarks had caused “dismay and consternation” after initially denying he had made the rape comment. “I have no excuses to offer. It was a gross error of judgement and deeply insensitive,” Pal, 55, said in a statement. “It should not have happened. And I assure you it will not happen again,” he added.
Amid widespread outrage in India over a series of recent high-profile rapes, Pal could be clearly heard bragging of his ability to order attacks against his left-wing opponents. “If CPI-M (Communist Party of India - Marxist) tries to kill and intimidate our workers... I will not spare them. I will let loose my men to rape your women,” he said in an address to followers in late May which was filmed on a phone. His comments drew widespread condemnation, including from Trinamool which is the fourth largest party in parliament and whose support is concentrated in the state of West Bengal.
“We do not in any way endorse what he said,” party spokesman Derek O’Brien told reporters, adding that party leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was “hopping mad” about the remarks. Pal, who is also a minor film star in the Kolkata-based movie industry, tried to limit the damage by claiming he had been misquoted. “I never said rape. I said raid. I said they should raid all the people and places, including women and old,” he told CNN-IBN earlier Tuesday.
However even his own wife Nandini said the lawmaker was out of line. “I feel terrible about it. Whatever he has said, it is not right being a member of the parliament,” she told reporters in Kolkata. The head of the National Commission for Women said Pal’s position was now untenable. “He should resign. This is a very unfortunate statement,” said the commission’s head Mamata Sharma. “Mamata Banerjee should take action against him — he should be suspended.”
Brinda Karat, the leader of the Communists, told reporters that the comments were “completely unacceptable” and Pal “must be suspended” from the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament. India brought in tougher laws last year against sex offenders after the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, but they have failed to stem the tide of violence against women across the country. In May, two girls aged 12 and 14 were found hanging from a mango tree in the state of Uttar Pradesh. They had been abducted and gang-raped.
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