NEW DELHI: Mounting outrage over two rapes, one in the region of Kashmir and another allegedly involving a lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, BJP, gripped the country on Friday, with government ministers struggling to dampen political fires. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi held a candlelit vigil at India Gate in New Delhi.
“Like millions of Indians, my heart hurts tonight,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter after addressing an estimated 5,000 people at Thursday’s midnight vigil. “India simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does.”
Modi on Friday broke his silence over the rape and murder of a minor in Jammu and Kashmir and the rape of a teenager in Uttar Pradesh, saying justice will be done to the victims and no culprit will be allowed to escape.
“The incidents that are in discussion in the country for the last two days do not reflect good for any civilised country. This is shameful.
“It’s an insult to the freedom fighters who gave their lives for the Independence of this country. We are all ashamed as a society, as a country,” Modi said after a nationwide outrage over the incidents in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
“Such incidents in any part of the country or a state shake our humanity. I want to assure the country that no culprit will escape. Justice will be done and it will be complete justice. The daughters will get justice. We all will have to join and remove this evil from the society.”
Horrifying details of the alleged gang rape and murder of eight-year-old girl Asifa in an area of Jammu and Kashmir in January, emerged this week from a police charge sheet.
The BJP shares power in the state, where party members joined a rally to show support for eight Hindu men accused of the crime, including a former bureaucrat and four police officers.
2 MINISTERS QUIT: Two BJP ministers, who had attended a rally in support of the Kathua rape accused, on Friday resigned from the Mehbooba Mufti government, an official statement said.
“Yet again we’ve failed as a society,” Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar said in a Twitter message.
“Can’t think straight as more chilling details on little Asifa’s case emerge…her innocent face refuses to leave me. Justice must be served, hard and fast!”
In Uttar Pradesh, federal police on Friday began questioning a BJP member of the state legislature who is accused of raping a teenage woman in June.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over the case this week after the state’s police were heavily criticised for not acting sooner on the victim’s complaint.
A CBI spokesman said the lawmaker, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, was being questioned on Friday, but had not been arrested.
Sengar’s lawyer has said his client was innocent and the case was a conspiracy to harm his political career.
Ministers have insisted that justice will be done no matter who committed the crime, while defending the government’s record on fighting violence against women.
“We are here to safeguard the interest of our daughters, they are the daughters of the nation,” Federal Minister Mahesh Sharma told reporters on Thursday.
DEATH PENALTY: Maneka Gandhi, the Minister for Women and Child Development, said her ministry planned to propose the death penalty for the rape of children younger than 12. The maximum punishment now is life imprisonment.
Responding to the outpouring of national shame and anger after the 2012 New Delhi case, the then Congress-led government tightened laws on crimes against women.