India president's son apologises over rape comments

Image caption,
The 16 December assault triggered a string of demonstrations across Delhi

The son of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has apologised for making derogatory remarks about women participating in protests in Delhi against the gang-rape of a student.

Abhijit Mukherjee, a member of the Indian parliament, said that the female protesters were "middle-aged and caked in make-up".

He described them as "dented and painted" women rather than students.

The phrase is used by car mechanics who mask bruised bodywork with paint.

'Accumulated rage'

"These pretty women, dented and painted... Have no contact with ground reality," Mr Mukherjee told a regional news channel.

He was forced to apologise however when his remarks were widely condemned.

Among his numerous critics was his sister, Sharmishtha, who described the comments as shocking, saying they would also incur the disapproval of President Mukherjee.

"It is definitely something that we as a family definitely don't agree with," she told the NDTV network.

"It's not just one protest, it's accumulated rage over the way women are being treated, raped, molested... My father is absolutely with me on this."

Other critics - including the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party - said that Mr Mukherjee's remarks were particularly poorly timed, as the 23-year-old rape victim remains on life support in a Singapore hospital.

Mr Mukherjee withdrew his comments late on Thursday, stressing that they were not meant to hurt "any particular section or any particular sentiment".

"I apologise to all the people whose sentiments got hurt because of these sentences and they are withdrawn," he said.

The rape earlier this month triggered violent public protests, which left one police officer dead.

Police said she was raped for nearly an hour, and both she and her companion were beaten with iron bars and thrown out of the moving bus into a Delhi street.

Six men have been arrested and two police officers have been suspended following the 16 December attack.

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