Singer Palash Sen came in for some heavy criticism after a blog post detailing his alleged sexist remarks at IIT-B’s Mood Indigo on Saturday went viral on Monday.
Dozens of girl invitees from across India have demanded a public apology from the frontman of the Indi rock band Euphoria as well as from the organisers of the institute’s annual festival, which was attended by more than 10,000 students of around 800 engineering colleges. They have also asked for a blanket ban on Euphoria across campuses.
Sen began his music act with Dhoom Pichak Dhoom in the middle of which he allegedly asked the crowd, “Are there beautiful women in IIT-Bombay?” The crowd chorused there was none. Sen is said to have asked the question thrice and each time the boys from IIT-B and outside shouted ‘No’.
The boys’ shouts naturally suppressed the boos coming from a handful of women there, the blog post by Bangalore student Arpita Biswas read, adding, Sen then tried to give some “consolation” to the men by saying, ‘IITians should not be too heartbroken because they will get the best girls in the market once they’re out. Aur who tumhare liye roti belengi (And they will make rotis for you)’.
Biswas’s post added that there was no stopping him as he went on to say that all beautiful women ought to become as intelligent as boys to come to IIT. According to him, he went to a medical school where there were “male and non-male” students.
He seemed to be enjoying his own ‘jokes’, even as women present there were feeling humiliated, the blog post said. Sen allegedly also said, “Women are the most beautiful... and men are the most intelligent because they recognise beauty.”
The 48-year-old Delhi-based singer and composer had performed at Mood Indigo in 2003 as well. Biswas wrote, “Why didn’t he ask this question to women, ‘are men in IIT good-looking’? He doesn’t precisely because all that matters in a woman to him is beauty. He wants more women in campus so that IIT men would have more beautiful women to look at and hit on!”
She also took a dig at the organisers, who allegedly tried to hush up the matter. “Your silence makes you complicit with Sen and all other participating men in this sexual harassment.”
Huge unrest among girls prompted an apology by the Mood Indigo organisers on their Facebook and Twitter pages. “We strongly condemn and apologise for the remarks of Palash Sen at the concert. The organising committee is in the process of deciding further action in the matter,” said Umang Shah, an organiser.
While Sen was unavailable for comment, his spokesperson said Sen’s remarks were not offensive at all. “What is wrong in saying that men are the most intelligent and women the most beautiful creatures of God? It’s not sexist...”
Insisting that Sen is a supporter of women’s rights since years and works with an NGO which promotes gender equality, the spokesperson claimed, “He has been presenting this song at different events for the last 10 years across India with similar comments and no controversy had erupted. This time, people who didn’t attend the programme are creating unnecessary noise.”
He also claimed that Sen apologised soon after the programme when insisted by the festival organisers. When asked why he apologised if he didn’t think the remarks were sexist, the spokesperson said, “Because some girls were offended and he mentioned the same in his apology.” Organisers and girls, however, denied Sen rendering any apology.
National Commission for Women Nirmala Prabhavalkar said, “These comments are not only discriminatory and insensitive but also suggest that women who are intelligent are not beautiful and vice versa.”