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#RespectWomen: When Tirath Singh Rawat was ripped over 'ripped jeans' remarks in 2021

Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat faced strong protests after he remarked that women wearing "ripped jeans" are unable to teach culture to their children. Several celebrities and opposition leaders filled social media handles with pictures of them sporting ripped jeans.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New Delhi Published on: April 04, 2024 16:20 IST
When Tirath Singh Rawat was ripped over 'ripped jeans'
Image Source : INDIA TV When Tirath Singh Rawat was ripped over 'ripped jeans' remarks in 2021

New Delhi: A major controversy erupted on Wednesday when Haryana Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala apparently made "sexist" comments against Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Mathura MP Hema Malini by insinuating that the veteran actress was elected to "lick". The BJP was quick to take note and slam the Congress leader and even alleged that it showed the main opposition party's misogynistic approach.

As political fervour is high in India ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, some politicians are known to cross all sorts of red lines that end up stoking major controversies. Such controversial remarks are not at all uncommon during campaigns for upcoming elections. In a similar situation, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat sparked a major row when he remarked that women wearing "ripped jeans" can't provide to right kind of culture.

What did Tirath Singh Rawat say?

Tirath Singh, who was the Uttarakhand CM for little over three months, was invited to a workshop organised by by the Uttarakhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights in Dehradun on March 16, 2021, when he expressed 'shock' at seeing a woman running an NGO wearing ripped jeans and said that such women will not be able to impart cultural values upon children. This happened not long after he replaced Trivendra Singh Rawat as CM.

"Recently when I was returning from Jaipur...I noticed a woman sitting beside me. She was wearing gumboots and ripped jeans exposing her knees. The woman, who runs an NGO, was with her two kids. What kind of values would you give to your children?... Kaynchi se sanskaar (culture by scissors) - showing bare knees, wearing ripped denim and looking like rich kids - these are the values being given now. Is this good?" he said.

"If such women go out in the society to meet people and solve their problems, what kind of message are we giving out to society, to our kids? It all starts at home. What we do, our kids follow. A child who is taught the right culture at home, no matter how modern he becomes, will never fail in life," he added.

Furore over Tirath Singh's remarks

Rawat's remarks triggered a furore with leaders cutting across political parties and the media severely criticising him and terming his statement "sexist". Former Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha reacted sharply over Rawat's statement and questioned whether the BJP endorsed such remarks made by the then-CM. 

Congress organised several protests where women sported ripped jeans and held their babies in their arms to send a strong message to the BJP leader. Even celebrities joined opposition leaders in flooding the social media with pictures of women wearing ripped jeans with the hashtag #rippedjeans dominating X (then Twitter) handles.

"May Bjp rule for another 50 years but.... ripped jeans and boots will rock forever! Men don't tell us what to wear! I wear shorts and snickers, I dance like a hip hopper, I chant Hanuman chalisa, I vote, I travel like a Gypsy and I cancel Men like him. Stop," wrote Bollywood actress Koena Mitra at the time.

Actress Gul Panag posted a picture of herself with her kid wearing ripped jeans and captioned: "#RippedJeansTwitter"

Tirath Singh's 'apology'

The controversy intensified so much that Tirath Singh's wife Rashmi had to come to his defence and say that it is on the onus of the woman to preserve the culture. Facing flak, the former Uttarakhand CM said he apologises for the remark if it had hurt somebody, but maintained his objection to "torn" jeans, saying they are "not right".

He stressed that he made the comment to keep the children away from intoxicants and other evils. One year after the remarks, when he was no longer CM, Tirath Singh said his views on wearing ripped jeans "remained unchanged" and it is not part of India's culture.

"I was never against wearing jeans. I myself wore it when I was younger. My statement was against ripped jeans and I stick to it. Isn't it strange that new pairs of jeans are bought from the market and ripped here and there using scissors before being worn? Wearing tattered clothes was never a part of the Indian culture. Even today, people in India do not attend functions in ripped jeans," he said.

Notably, the furore over his remarks against women wearing ripped jeans had barely subsided afterwards when he had walked into another controversy by saying India was ruled for 200 years by the United States prompting the opposition leaders in the state to question his knowledge of history.

ALSO READ | #RespectWomen: When Azam Khan used 'Khaki Underwear' remark to attack Jaya Prada

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