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Union minister Subhas Sarkar courts controversy over Rabindranath Tagore's 'not-so-fair complexion' remark

Provoking angry reactions from West Bengal's ruling TMC, Sarkar said Rabindranath Tagore's mother did not cradle him in her arms when he was a child because of his "not so fair complexion".

Union minister Subhas Sarkar courts controversy over Rabindranath Tagore's 'not-so-fair complexion' remark-dnm
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Kolkata, First Published Aug 19, 2021, 5:12 PM IST
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Santiniketan/Kolkata: Kicking up a controversy, Union Minister Subhas Sarkar made remarks on the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore's complexion and suggested that his mother treated him differently because of it.

Provoking angry reactions from West Bengal's ruling TMC, Sarkar said Rabindranath Tagore's mother did not cradle him in her arms when he was a child because of his "not so fair complexion".

During a visit to Visva Bharati University that was founded by Tagore, the Minister of State for Education claimed, "Tagore's mother and some other relatives would not hold him in their arms because he was 'dark-skinned'."

"There are two types of fair skinned people. One that are very fair with a yellowish hue and those who are fair but with a reddish tinge. Kabiguru belonged to the second category," he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

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As reported by PTI, the TMC reacted angrily, accusing the minister of insulting the icons of Bengal. Senior TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee was quoted saying, “Subhas Sarkar is not aware of history. it is well known that Rabindranath Tagore was fair skinned. This is a racist comment (by the minister) and an insult to the icons of Bengal. Subhas Sarkar should not be allowed to enter Viswa-Bharati ever again.”

Sarkar's comments triggered a controversy, with educationists and politicians denouncing him, while rival politicians labelled him illiterate.

"No idea on what basis the Hon'ble minister made such comments. Don't know if he has read biographies of Tagore thoroughly or whether he understood the spirit of these writings properly. Tagore was not of dark complexion though people like his elder sister had described him as Rabi, our dark-complexioned boy. This was an exaggeration. Did the minister mean to say Rabindranath was as dark as Africans? Or he meant he had a complexion that was somewhat between fair and dark," former Rabindra Bharati University Vice-Chancellor Pabitra Sarkar said as quoted by PTI.

However, the BJP leadership in West Bengal defended the union minister and said his comments were, in fact, against racism.

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