The Congress on Wednesday castigated Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari for mocking social reformers Savitribai and Jyotirao Phule for getting married at a young age.
The party tweeted a video of Koshiyari’s remarks, which he made while inaugurating a statue of Savitribai Phule in Pune.
“Savitribai was married off when she was ten years old,” Koshiyari said in a bemused tone amid bursts of laughter. “And her husband [Jyotirao] was 13 years old. Now imagine, what would the boy and girl have been doing after marriage? What would they have been thinking?”
Savitribai and Jyotirao Phule were married in 1840, when child marriage was a common practice in India.
Congress leader Sachin Sawant, in response to Koshiyari’s question, said that the anti-caste reformers could have a dialogue on the education of girls.
“Savitribai saw Jyotiba engaged in studies and asked him to teach her,” Sawant said. “She paved the way for the education of women in the country. Through dialogue spanning eight years, Savitribai set up the first school for girls at the age of 17.”
The Congress said that the governor’s remarks reflected a mentality that is aligned with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
“The hand gestures, the laughter...all of it is disgusting,” the party said on Twitter. “...It is Maharashtra’s misfortune that it got a governor who does not have a sense of what to say when.”
Savitribai Phule had started India’s first school for girls at Pune’s Bhide Wada in 1848 despite fierce opposition from conservative sections of society.
Maharashtra Minister for Women and Child Development Yashomati Thakur said that Koshiyari’s remarks were a breach of propriety. “The governor should stop deliberately insulting persons revered in Maharashtra,” she said.
This is the second time in recent days that a statement by the Maharashtra governor has provoked angry reactions from political leaders in Maharashtra.
On Sunday, Koshiyari claimed that 17th-century poet-saint Samarth Ramdas was the Maratha warrior king Shivaji’s mentor.
“Many chakravartis [emperors], maharajas took birth on this land,” Koshiyari had said. “But, who would have asked about Chandragupta had there not been Chanakya? Who would have asked about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had there not been Samarth [Ramdas]?”
Bharatiya Janata Party MP Udayanraje Bhosale the Maratha king’s mother, Jijabai, was the mentor and not Ramdas.
On Thursday, Koshiyari had to leave a speech in the Maharashtra Assembly midway after leaders of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi engaged in sloganeering, The New Indian Express reported.
Several Maharashtra MLAs shouted slogans in the Assembly hailing Shivaji.