Former Rajya Sabha member and Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury on Tuesday waded into a controversy with her remarks that Parliament, like other workplaces, is not immune to sexual misconduct. Chowdhury also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that he had “denigrated” her dignity when he said during a debate in the Rajya Sabha that she reminded him of a character in the television serial Ramayan.
“It is the bitter truth. The whole film industry may get up in arms against me. With women, it happens everywhere. So don’t imagine that Parliament is immune or some other work space is immune,” Chowdhury said while commenting on veteran Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan’s comments defending casting couch culture in the Indian film industry.
Referring to the #MeToo campaign in other countries, she said it was time for Indian women, too, to break their silence on this issue. The Congress refused to comment on the issue. Party leaders said they were not aware of Chowdhury’s comments. Later, addressing a press conference, Chowdhury clarified, “What is sexual harassment? What is the meaning of casting couch? It is a terminology which you are using…it is not just narrowed to one sphere. Casting couch is that you take away the privileges of women and use it for your personal benefit of in lieu of other compensations…. You have taken away my dignity in Parliament when the Prime Minister spoke in a way that
is derogatory to my status as a woman.”
“When the Prime Minister insults a woman…that is denigrating my status as a woman…it is against the law. When Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju uploads offensive video against me…because I tried to expose their falsehood…” the Rajya Sabha MP said. Chowdhury was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s apparent dig at her, saying her laughter reminded him of the serial Ramayan.