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Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan is not unfamiliar to making sexist and controversial remarks. However, his purported remarks against actor Jaya Prada are a new low even for him. During a rally on Sunday, Azam allegedly made derogatory remarks against the BJP Rampur Lok Sabha candidate. According to The Indian Express, Khan allegedly commented on Jaya Prada’s association with the RSS at a public rally by saying, “What is the difference between you and me? People of Rampur, people of Uttar Pradesh and the people of India. It took you 17 years to understand her true face. But I realised in 17 days… that she wears khakhi underwear.” Apparently, he said this in presence of party president Akhilesh Yadav and other senior leaders.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • SP leader Azam Khan’s remarks on Jaya Prada are a new low, even for  him.
  • Khan is a serial offender and yet he find access to mic and the audience.
  • That he incurs barely any legal or political consequences for his comments has made him only more brazen.
  • We must ask ourselves, what is our tolerance level for politicians like Khan.

While Khan has denied targeting Prada specifically, he hasn’t denied making the Khakhi underwear comment.

However, Khan has denied targeting Prada in his speech. Offering a clarification, he said, “I haven’t named anyone. I know what I should say. If anyone can prove that I named anyone anywhere and insulted anyone, then I’ll not contest election.” But he hasn’t denied making these remarks, which are problematic, irrespective of who was his target here.

Political discourse in India has become more sexist and senseless than ever recently. But this is outright attack on  someone’s modesty. Be it Prada or any female or male politician, what makes Khan feel so entitled to make such a comment during a political rally? That this comment was made in presence of SP party president only shows how little even the party big guns care about their own party’s image. They sit and watch such misdemeanours from the side-lines, rather than stopping them midway, or reprimanding leaders like Azam or simply apologising for their words. Verbal restraint has become sparse and clarifications only happen after outrage.

Verbal restraint has become sparse and clarifications only happen after outrage.

The problem is that Azam Khan is a repeat offender. This isn’t the first time he has made such unpalatable remarks. This isn’t also the first time his remarks have been of offensive nature against women (if it is indeed true that he was targeting Jaya Prada).  In 2016, Khan has irked many by labeling that the 2016 Bulandshahr Gang-Rape was a political conspiracy. He said, “We need to investigate whether this is a conspiracy by opponents who want to defame the government.”

Yet, Khan continues to find access to mic and our ears and brain. In giving him a platform to slander others,  we indirectly tell him that he isn’t wrong. That he is right in saying what he is saying, else there would have been repercussions. Today he made a remark on a politician’s underwear, tomorrow is could be anything else.
What gives politicians the power to make such statements? Our support and our indifference. So if Azam Khan gets to walk away from the mic after saying such indecent things at a public gathering, we the electorate are also responsible on some level.

What is our tolerance level to Azam Khan and his diatribes?

So the true question is, what is our tolerance level to Azam Khan and his diatribes? When will we stop him from speaking senselessly? When will he face political and strong legal consequences for what he says? The likes of him will continue to drag women’s dignity into mud unless we take a stand and refuse to tolerate this indecency masquerading as political speech in India. Unless we put pressure on party bigwigs to take strict action and keep Azam and his kind from crossing a line they dare shouldn’t, nothing will change. But do we care enough to act?

Picture Credit: ANI

Also Read: Women’s Issues On Party Manifestos Better Not Be Empty Promises

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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