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9 Nov, 2023 15:49

American singer gives India a ‘lesson on democracy’

Mary Millben, who performed the Indian anthem during Modi’s visit to the US this year, has criticized the head of the Bihar state for his remarks on women
American singer gives India a ‘lesson on democracy’

Mary Millben, a US singer from Oklahoma, has slammed Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of the Bihar state in India, for saying women’s education allegedly brings down the fertility rate in the area.

Kumar caused outrage in India while speaking at the Bihar state assembly on Tuesday, after saying that “the fertility rate in the state has come down from 4.3% to 2.9%, due to the education of women.”

 “An educated woman is able to ensure that sex does not necessarily end in pregnancy, which helps keep the population in check,” he added. 

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Millben wrote that “India faces a defining moment” in which the “value of women is being challenged” in Bihar. She called on a “courageous” woman in the Indian state to step up and declare her candidacy to run for Kumar’s role, claiming she would do so herself if she could. 

After Chief Minister #NitishKumar Ji’s comments, I believe a courageous woman needs to step up and declare her candidacy to run for Chief Minister of Bihar. If I were a citizen of #India, I would move to Bihar and run for Chief Minister,” the singer wrote on Twitter.

I believe the time is now for Nitish Kumar to resign and for an Esther to arise in Bihar,” she added, after invoking a Biblical allegory in which a woman named Esther takes her rightful place as queen. Making a direct appeal to the people of Bihar, she said, “[You] have the power to vote in a woman, to vote in change … for such a time as this.”

Kumar’s comments triggered an intense backlash from the leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who called for his resignation.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself seemingly hit out at Kumar while addressing a political rally in the Madhya Pradesh state. “He has no shame,” the PM said, without explicitly naming Kumar. The party broke off its alliance with the BJP last year, triggering the fall of the state government. Kumar later aligned with the opposition bloc and returned as the chief minister for his eighth term. 

Kumar later tendered an apology for his statements. “If my words have hurt anyone, I take them back. I apologize for whatever I said. I’m not only ashamed but condemn myself for making such comments,” he stated.

Meanwhile, in the same post on X, Millben praised Modi as “the best leader” for the US-India relationship and for global economic stability. The African-American singer was chosen to perform the Indian national anthem during Modi’s visit to New York and Washington earlier this year. After a rendition of the anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’ at an event in Washington, DC, she touched Modi’s feet to seek his blessing – images of this went viral on social media, earning Millben many fans in India.