Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has falsely claimed that Rabindranath Tagore refused to accept the Nobel Prize for Literature to protest against British rule in India. A video of him making the statement emerged on social media on Wednesday. He reportedly made the remark at an event in Udaipur to mark Tagore’s birth anniversary, according to NDTV.
This is the fifth time that Deb’s statements have sparked controversy in the last three weeks.
Tagore was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature, which was awarded by the Swedish Academy in 1913. The award that he did renounce, as a mark of protest against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, was the knighthood bestowed upon him by the British.
The Opposition in Tripura said Deb had not done “basic homework” before delivering his speech. “Our chief minister has crossed every limit of idiocy,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Goutam Das told the Hindustan Times. “We even do not feel like commenting on the issue.”
Deb, who took charge as chief minister in March, made the first of his seemingly absurd statements on April 18, when he said that the internet had existed during the time of the Mahabharata. Twitter exploded with humour over the statement, which also earned him international coverage. He said days later that the government’s achievement of sending “104 satellites a year to space” proved claims in the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Upanishads that ancient India had a developed scientific tradition.
He followed that up a week later by saying that 1997 Miss World Diana Hayden was not worthy of the crown and that Aishwarya Rai, who won the title in 1999, was a better representation of Indian beauty. Deb apologised after facing backlash.
A day later, the chief minister again became the target of jokes when he claimed that civil engineers, and not mechanical engineers, should opt for civil services. He followed it up with a statement that the nails of those who criticise his government should be chopped off.