Actor Khushbu Sundar, who recently left the Congress to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has landed in hot water for calling her former party “mentally retarded,” which is a derogatory term used for disabled people. Now, a rights organisation has filed police complaints in all districts of Tamil Nadu against Sundar. The state has 38 districts.
The Tamil Nadu affiliate of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) said it was lodging police complaints seeking registration of FIR against the actor-turned-politician for “insulting and humiliating persons with disabilities.”
Condemning Sundar’s remarks, NPRD said, “While Khusbhoo Sundar has every right to politically take on her opponents, usage of terms that invoke a negative portrayal of disability are unacceptable. Time and again people holding public offices tend to invoke such negative terms to tarnish the image of political opponents, lending them legitimacy. This cannot be tolerated.”
Citing Section 92 (a) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the organisation said, “The country and people like Khushboo need to be reminded that such insults and humiliation are also prohibited by law.”
Following uproar over her controversial comment, which was made to the media on Sunday at Chennai Airport, Sundar issued a statement on Wednesday issuing an apology.
“I’m terribly sorry for the incorrect use of a couple of phrases in a moment of hastiness, deep distress and anguish. Being a self-made woman, the insinuation that I was being directed and influenced by significant others in my decisions was both objectionable and misogynistic. I have struggled with mental health concerns in my own family and have friends who are capable leaders, insightful and dynamic and living with bipolar disorder and depression,” Sundar said in her statement.
Saying that “many leaders in the past have also made similar references”, she expressed that she was determined to ensure not to repeat such an action.
However, NPRD general secretary Muralidharan said her apology was a result of the pressure mounted by disability rights organisations.
Criticising her statement as a “qualified apology” that was not acceptable, Muralidharan wrote on Facebook: “This is not about incorrect use of a phrase. It reflects a mindset that views people with disabilities as inferior, incapable and incompetent.”
“While it (the apology) may ebb the anger among certain sections who were agitated over her derogatory and insensitive remarks, the fact that she has violated a law that attracts a minimum of six months imprisonment, cannot be glossed over,” he said.