After facing scathing criticism over his silence on the horrific Kathua and Unnao rape cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday finally made a statement on the issue and called the rapes a “shame”. He also assured that the guilty would not be spared.
Earlier in the day Congress president Rahul Gandhi had put pressure on the PM on Twitter. He had posed two questions and dared Mr Modi to answer them. “Mr Prime Minister, your silence is unacceptable. 1) What do you think about the growing violence against women & children? 2) Why are accused rapists and murderers protected by the state? India is waiting,” Mr Gandhi had tweeted.
“I want to assure all that justice will be done and the guilty will not be spared,” Mr Modi said while addressing a gathering after inaugurating an Ambedkar Memorial at Alipur Road in the national capital.
“The incidents of the last two days are shameful for any civil society. These (incidents) also dishonour the sacrifices of all our freedom fighters.” He added that the nation was “shaken” by the gruesome incidents. “We are ashamed as a society and nation. Our daughters will get justice. We all will have to work together to end this internal evil.”
Before the Prime Minister’s reaction on the twin incidents, the BJP leadership, after being slammed from all sides for maintaining a stoic silence, started speaking up on the issue.
New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi, while seeking stringent punishment for the guilty, defended two Jammu and Kashmir ministers of the party who had joined a rally against a police probe into the Kathua gangrape and murder case.
She claimed that they were “misled” into attending the protest. Ms Lekhi also accused the Opposition of indulging in “dangerous politics” over the Kathua and Unnao cases.
Her comments evoked a sharp reaction from the Congress which said on Twitter, “BJP’s MP Meenakshi Lekhi’s insensitive remark is an insult to Indian citizens standing up for their rights. Her statement reflects her party’s regressive ideology. She must take back her words and apologise immediately.”
Union home minister Rajnath Singh said that the Kathua gangrape victim should get justice. He told reporters that he had spoken to BJP president Amit Shah and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on the Kathua incident.
Information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani said stern action would be taken against those found guilty in the Unnao rape case and condemned what she said were efforts to “politicise” such cases.
“The law and the administration will work according to the Constitution and an appeal in this regard has been made by senior persons in the BJP. There are some people who want to politicise such incidents, but as a woman, I believe and it is my request that victim-shaming should not be done,” she said, responding to reporters’ questions in Amethi.
Sensing the prevailing anger over the rapes, Union women and children development minister Maneka Gandhi asked her ministry to work on a proposal to amend the Pocso law to bring in the provision of death penalty for those who rape a girl below the age of 12 years.
“I have been deeply, deeply disturbed by the rape case in Kathua and all the recent rape cases that have happened on children. I and the ministry intend to bring an amendment to the Pocso Act asking for death penalty for rape of children below 12 years,” she said. Her ministry will move a Cabinet note on Monday to amend the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act, she said, responding to media persons’ queries.