Sonia Gandhi slur prompts call for penalties against ‘racist’ politicians

Updated 02 April 2015

Sonia Gandhi slur prompts call for penalties against ‘racist’ politicians

NEW DELHI: Indian politicians who make bigoted comments should be punished by their parties, activists said on Thursday, after a government minister became the latest parliamentarian to be accused of racism and sexism.
Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Giriraj Singh has under fire for remarks made in reference to Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born leader of the opposition Congress Party and widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1989.
“If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian lady, someone not white-skinned, would the Congress have accepted her as its leader?” Singh said during an off-the-record meeting with reporters, which was secretly filmed and broadcast on Thursday.
The comments sparked outrage among Congress supporters who clashed with police in the capital on Thursday outside the headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the dominant party in the coalition government.
Nigeria’s High Commissioner O.B. Okongor said the remarks were “unacceptable,” while Gandhi said she would not react to people with a “narrow mindset.”
Singh has apologized and the BJP has attempted to end the controversy by condemning the comments, but activists say political parties need to act against bigotry.
“These kinds of derogatory remarks are being made every day. The politician apologizes and then the matter is forgotten. It’s unconstitutional and promotes values which are destructive to the lives of women and girls,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association. “Political parties should have a basic code of conduct which can subscribe some kind of penalty.”
Sexist slurs made by politicians across India’s political landscape are commonplace, yet few result in punishment.
On Tuesday, local media reported the most senior official of the coastal state of Goa as telling striking nurses not to protest in the sun as it would make them darker and ruin their marriage prospects.
Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has denied the reports.
Last month, Sharad Yadav, president of the Janata Dal United Party, was slammed for commenting on women’s bodies and skin color during a debate in Parliament on an insurance bill.


Pakistan influence over Taliban can help, envoy says

Updated 10 min 33 sec ago

Pakistan influence over Taliban can help, envoy says

  • Progress of talks has been slow and rising violence has sapped trust

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan President’s Special Envoy for Pakistan Mohammed Umer Daudzai said on Wednesday that Pakistan should use its influence over the Taliban to help break a deadlock in peace talks between the insurgent group and Kabul, but warned that Islamabad should push the Taliban to support democracy.
Talks between an Afghan government delegation and the Taliban have been ongoing in Doha since mid-September, but progress has been slow and rising violence has sapped trust.
According to the UN, nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban insurgents rages on despite efforts to find peace.
The peace talks follow a deal in February between the USs and the Taliban that will pave the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, who agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with Kabul.
“We are pleased at the agreement between the Taliban and the US; it has proved that Pakistan has influence on the Taliban,” Daudzai told Arab News.
“Since they have influence, so they should also help us. This is our expectation. Pakistan has not refused to help us. They have also not denied their influence (on the Taliban).”
Neighboring Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan has for years been ambiguous — it is a US ally but is also accused of supporting the Taliban as its proxy in Afghanistan, part of its wider jockeying with regional rival India. Islamabad denies this. It also insists its influence with the Taliban has waned over the years.
“Pakistani leaders know our position as what do we want, what do we expect from them. But when and how will they do that is up to them.
But we want urgent actions,” Daudzai said, adding that the Afghan government expected Pakistan to support democracy in Afghanistan.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan would hold “detailed discussions” on the peace process with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani when they met in Kabul later this year.