Mumbai: National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma has stirred up a controversy with her comment that there is a "rise in love-jihad cases" in Maharashtra, drawing the ire of netizens, politicians and activists who have demanded that Sharma immediately resign for giving credence to such a term.
Sharma had on Tuesday met Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to discuss women safety-related issues in the state, including the alleged rising cases of love jihad in the state. Her comments have garnered severe criticism. She was criticised by netizens, women rights activists and political parties who termed her tweets "foul, contemptible and cheap."
No immediate response was available from Sharma but people close to her have said that Sharma during her meeting with Governor Koshyari discussed the case of one inter-religious marriage in Maharashtra and Sharma apparently clarified to the governor that she is not against inter-faith marriages.
Soon after her comments on love-jihad, netizens dug out Sharma's old tweets in which she allegedly made controversial remarks against women and many politicians. Sharma, however claimed that her Twitter account was hacked stating that those tweets are dated before she became the NCW chairperson. Following public outrage, Sharma has also deleted her old tweets and locked her Twitter account.
"I have protected my tweets since last evening after receiving a message from Twitter that suspicious activity was detected on my account. My profile was also blocked for a while by Twitter," Sharma tweeted.
Sharma has also claimed that Twitter is looking into the matter. "I have reached out to the platform to investigate some unauthorized tweets made from my account. The investigations are on and I hope some resolution can be found," she said in another tweet.
The government had told parliament that the term "love jihad" is not defined under existing laws and no case has been reported by any central agency. The term is often used by right wing groups for defining inter-faith marriages.
Addressing reporters, AAP spokesperson Atishi said the party seeks immediate removal of Sharma from her post at the National Commission for Women. "How can a woman with a foul, contemptible and anti-feminist mindset preside over an institution established to protect the rights of women? We demand the removal of Rekha Sharma from the post of chairman of NCW with immediate effect," Atishi said.
Ragini Nayak, a Congress spokesperson, tweeted, "Every second this vile, sexist, venom spewing @sharmarekha spends as chairperson of @NCWIndia is a fresh assault on the integrity and dignity of women in this country. Only Modi ji could have entrusted such a misogynist with protection of women's rights #SackRekhaSharma."
Joining the bandwagon the official Twitter handle of the Indian Youth Congress also demanded for Rekha Sharma to be sacked. "Why hide your cheap and misogynistic tweets now @sharmarekha? The BJP government should hang its head in shame. The rapists supporting govt also endorses a misogynist as the head of the @NCWIndia. Under BJP, India truly has become no country for women. #SackRekhaSharma," the Indian Youth Congress tweeted.
Kavita Krishnan, women rights activist and All India Progressive Women's Association Secretary, claimed that Sharma brought shame to the NCW. "Hey @sharmarekha - what on earth is a "love jehad" case? Any case in which a Muslim man and Hindu woman are in love? How dare you remain in your chair as @NCWIndia chief & use a term that a) treats women as property of communities b) hates Muslims? You bring shame to NCW," Krishnan tweeted.
Renowned lawyer Karuna Nundy claimed that this incident shows that the government does not care about women rights. "Having installed a deeply misogynist, bigoted and downright sleazy NCW chief, the Modi government clearly doesn't care two hoots about women's rights. #sackrekhasharma," Nundy tweeted.