Union culture and tourism minister Mahesh Sharma is at it again. This time around, Sharma sparked controversy by saying that women visiting India should refrain from wearing skirts and "other skimpy clothes" in a bid to ensure their safety.
"For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts... Indian culture is different from the western", he told reporters.
However, he later retracted his statement saying, "We have not given any specific instructions regarding what they should wear or not wear. We are asking them to take precaution while going out at night. We are not trying to change anyone's preference."
This is not Sharma's first brush with controversy. On a number of occasions, Sharma's statements have caused a major embarrassment for the ruling party and his remarks have often provoked opposition leaders into demanding his resignation.
Here are a few such remarks from the minister:
1. In September 2015, Sharma said: "Night out for girls was not part of Indian culture. (It) may be all right elsewhere but it is not part of Indian culture."
2. After the passing of former President Abdul Kalam, the central government had decided to rename the Aurangzeb Road in Delhi in his honour. Sharma had then said:
"I don't think Aurangzeb was an ideal person. Only a source of inspiration can be inspirational. Aurangzeb Road has been named after such a great man who, despite being a Muslim, was a nationalist and a humanist, APJ Abdul Kalam. The road has been named after him".
3. "We will cleanse every area of public discourse that has been westernised and where Indian culture and civilisation need to be restored - be it the history we read, our cultural heritage or our institutes that have been polluted over years," he had said during a meeting with leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
4. In an interview to India Today, Sharma said: "In our culture women of three generations cook food in the same kitchen... in Europe, a 16-year-old leaves home". "Culture defines a nation. The time has come to win back our culture from the negative influence of Western culture," he said.
5. In the same interview, the minister also managed to offend a number of communities. He said the Quran and the Bible are not central to soul of India in the way the Gita and the Ramayana are.
"Gita and Ramayana reflect India's soul. But we also respect Quran and would include best thoughts from it. I respect Bible and Quran but they are not central to soul of India in the way as Gita and Ramayana are. As India's cultural minister, I recommend that Ramayana and Gita should be part of our school curriculum and I am working extensively with HRD Minister Smriti Irani towards this," he said.