Agartala: Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Tuesday regretted his earlier comment that had snowballed into a raging controversy of comparing his own Bengali stock to be intellectually superior to Jats and Punjabis and made a U-turn in his apologetic remark that he’s proud of both these north Indian communities.
“I had expressed thoughts about my Punjabi and Jat brothers at an event in Agartala Press Club recently. I didn’t intend to hurt any community. I am proud of both Punjabi and Jat communities. I myself have spent a lot of time with them,” Deb tweeted as a mark of apology.
“Many of my close friends are from these communities. If my statement has hurt anyone’s sentiments, I personally seek apology for that,” he further tweeted as a sign of atonement.
In another tweet, he said that he was aware of these communities’ immense contributions to the country’s freedom struggle and would never doubt their role behind India’s growth story.
Earlier, CM Deb had landed in a soup after Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala circulated a video on social media that quickly went viral.
The video showed Deb making a pronouncement with a great degree of certitude that Jats are blessed with less intellect, but are healthy, while Bengalis, a community to which he belongs, are known for their intellectual prowess.
Surjewala himself is a Jat.
“In Haryana, there are Jats. Let me tell you about them. Jats are less intelligent, but are physically healthy. While for Bengalis, it is said that they should not be challenged regarding their intelligence. They are known for their intelligence across the country,” Deb had said at a programme in Agartala Press Club recently.
Bijan Dhar, a local veteran Communist Party of India (CPI) (Marxist), a party that had ruled Tripura for two decades on the trot until 2018 and was a formidable political force until recently, termed CM Deb’s statement as “objectionable” and smacked of “racism”.
“This kind of statement is objectionable. It’s a racial slur to divide the people of this country. It poses a threat to the union and the integrity of our nation. However, if this news is, indeed, fake, then he must counter it publicly,” Dhar said.
Opposition Congress, a dwindling political force in the state, also jumped on the bandwagon.
“The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stands for divisive politics. This is not the first time that the CM has made such off-the-cuff remarks and later ended up eating the humble pie,” said Tapas Dey, state vice-president, Congress.
The ruling BJP, however, sprang to CM Deb’s defence.
“The CM didn’t intend to degrade any particular community’s intelligence quotient. His speech was misconstrued. He wanted to delineate the characteristics of various communities across the country. His comments were misinterpreted and spun out of content to give a political twist to it and create unnecessary controversy,” said Subrata Chakraborty, BJP’s state spokesperson.
However, CM Deb, a gymnasium instructor-turned-politician, is no stranger to putting his foot in his mouth.
Earlier, he had claimed that the internet existed even during the mythological Mahabharat era.
He had also drawn flak for his uncharitable remark that Diana Hayden didn’t deserve to win an international beauty pageant contest.
His unscientific temper had also made him a butt of ridicule, when he had said that ducks release oxygen to the atmosphere during swimming in the water.