National Commission for Women chief Rekha Sharma on Thursday criticised former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda after the Congress leader was seen sitting on a tractor as party leaders, including women, pulled it in protest against the increase in fuel prices, reported ANI.

“If women toil for livelihood, I’ve no problem,” the NCW chief said. “But if a man, especially a political leader, is sitting on the tractor and women are pulling it, this lowers the dignity of women and also the person sitting on the tractor. It compromises the idea of gender equality.”

Sharma said that she will take action if the commission receives a complaint. “If the women think they were made to do this forcibly, they can come to us,” she said. “But even if they were doing it willingly, the one on the tractor should think that this shouldn’t be done.”

On Monday, Hooda had reached the state Assembly on a tractor being pulled by Congress legislators in a protest against rising fuel prices. In videos posted by the Bharatiya Janata Party members, a handful of women among various male leaders could be seen pulling the tractor as Hooda sat on the driver’s seat.

BJP leader Rameshnaidu Nagothu posted the video, criticising the Congress. “Congress insulted women again,” he tweeted. “Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda was seen riding a tractor during a protest and women legislators of the party pulling it with ropes.”

Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said it was “absolutely shocking” to see the former Haryana chief minister sitting calmly on a tractor while having woman pull it physically, reported PTI.

“I understand he wants to protest,” she said. “I understand he wants to make a political statement but should that be done at the cost of women? This is irrespective of our politics. Can women in political organisations, especially the scene we saw in this protest by the Congress, be treated as bonded labourers.”

Irani said that it was shocking that no male member of the Congress even tried to intervene. Irani also took a dig at Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, saying that her silence speaks volumes about how the women in the party were reduced to tasks that even men refuse to do.

The Union minister said that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for celebrating female potential on the International Women’s Day, Hooda reduced their stature. The International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8, Monday.

Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said that he could not sleep at the sight of the incident. “This treatment to women MLAs was worse than bonded labour,” he had said in the state Assembly on Tuesday.

Hooda had defended his actions, saying that it was women who were feeling the pinch of the rising prices of cooking gas and other essentials. However, Khattar replied that if Hooda had to protest, he should have pulled the tractor.

To this, Hooda said: “The government has turned a blind eye to the pain of women who are sitting with farmers protesting on borders against farm laws. Power connections were cut at the protest site, you cannot see their pain.”