Patna, July 14: Minister for art, culture and youth affairs Vinay Bihari has a new take on what is behind the rising violence against women — a non-vegetarian diet and the mobile phone, a device, which, he sagely says, is being used by youths to watch pornographic films.

“I believe that youths use the mobile to watch blue films. Youths don’t use the Internet service on their mobile phones to educate themselves but to watch pornography which encourage them to commit rape,” Bihari, 44, told The Telegraph on the premises of the Assembly.

He didn’t end there. The minister then targeted non-vegetarian food as being responsible for incidents of rape and molestation.

“People who eat more non-vegetarian food like chicken and fish are inclined towards carrying out molestation and rape,” said Bihari, a Bhojpuri singer who is the Independent MLA from Lauriya in West Champaran.

Bihari’s sudden attack on mobile phones and non-vegetarianism was prompted by a question from this reporter on a finding of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly committee that use of mobile phones was responsible for increase in incidents of rape.

Bihari’s statement has come as a shock for his colleagues in political circles as well as Bihar’s intelligentsia. The MLA is part of the film world — considered a symbol of modernity — and has penned over 1,000 Bhojpuri songs and sung in nearly 300 Bhojpuri films. He recently directed and produced a Bhojpuri film in which 11 elected members of the Assembly showed their acting skills.

Son of a primary schoolteacher hailing from Machhargawan village in north Bihar’s West Champaran district, Bihari is a graduate and a strict vegetarian. Sources close to him said he treats vegetarianism as a virtue.

Insensitive quotes from Indian politicians on rape are not uncommon.

For example, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav had during the election campaign said “rape accused should not be hanged…boys make mistakes”.

Other politicians have blamed the rise in such cases to the size of the dresses worn by women, their socialising trends, the company they keep and what girls choose to eat and drink when having a good time.

Women legislators scoffed at Bihari’s claims and termed his explanation “nonsense”.

Cutting across party lines, the women members said Bihari was making a mockery of a serious issue by making ridiculous and unscientific claims.

JDU’s Neeta Choudhary, who represents Tarapur Assembly seat in Banka district, said: “I have visited foreign countries several times and seen people living a very good life. Using smart phones and eating non-vegetarian food has nothing to do with rape and eve-teasing.”

Paliganj MLA Usha Vidyarthi of the BJP said: “The minister’s remark is nonsensical. Rape does not take place due to using mobile phone or eating non-vegetarian food. Rather, it is a perverse and sick mentality that drives people to indulge in such acts. What matters the most is the upbringing of the child and the lesson he/she learns from their parents, teachers and friends.”

Doctors warned that such comments could have an adverse impact on society. “Eating non-vegetarian food is good for health as it is full of protein. We prescribe patients fish for omega-3 fatty acids which is good for the heart. Eating non-vegetarian food has no links with rape,” said physician Rajiv Ranjan.

City-based psychiatrist Vinay Kumar pointed out that there are several instances of spiritual babas, who were strictly vegetarian, committing rape. “It is just the mindset of the people,” he said.

Former president of Patna University Students’ Union Ashish Sinha said the minister should apologise to youths. “The minister should concentrate on development work instead of making such comments,” said Sinha.

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