New Delhi/Jaipur, Jan 7 (IANS) Spiritual leader Asaram Bapu was Monday reported as saying that the Delhi gang-rape victim should have called her attackers "brothers" and recited the Saraswati mantra to avert the tragedy. This provoked both the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP to lash out at the comments as disturbing and condemnable.
Asaram Bapu reportedly said, "The victim is as guilty as her rapists", adding one hand cannot clap.
The victim should have "begged" in front of the culprits, he said.
Speaking to a gathering of followers at Tonk town, some 100 km from Jaipur, Asaram Babu said: "The five or six drunken men were not the only ones guilty. The girl was also responsible..."
"She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop. This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don't think so," CNN-IBN quoted Asaram Bapu as saying.
"Had she recited the Saraswati mantra, she would not have boarded any bus after watching a movie with her boyfriend," he said.
The comment was slammed by India's two main parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"Such comments should be condemned as much as possible," Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit said.
He was backed by party colleague Rashid Alvi, who said: "Political leaders, including religious leaders, must give serious thought before they speak out."
BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said the comments were "regrettable and deeply disturbing and painful".
"We expect Asaram Bapuji to kindly introspect, reflect and withdraw the statement," Prasad said.
"I am sure he knows in the Hindu chintan (thought), woman of the country have been accorded a place of pride and dignity. Similarly in our constitution also, there is a clear provision of granting a status of equality to a woman and no discrimination. In this case, for him to make a statement in relation to a crime which has shocked the conscience of the country... Sorry, it is not acceptable," he said.
Asaram Bapu also said he was against stringent laws to prevent rape. "Laws can be misused. There are several examples of misuse of laws related to dowry harassment in our country. If the laws against cases of rape are misused, the men will be victims."
He said he had written to the family of the Delhi gang-rape victim. "They lost their daughter, they should consider me their son," he said.
The 23-year-old woman was gang-raped in a moving bus on the night of Dec 16, and brutally tortured. She died of her injuries Dec 29 in a Singapore hospital, two days after she was taken there for treatment.