Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Wednesday blamed the parents of two minor girls, who were gangraped on a beach on July 25, for allowing their children to step out at night, reported The Times of India. The chief minister said that the minors’ parents needed to introspect instead of holding his administration and the police accountable.

Four men, one of whom is a government employee working as a driver with the state agriculture department, posed as police officers and raped the two girls on Benaulim beach. The accused also assaulted two minor boys who were accompanying the girls, according to PTI. The four men were arrested on the night of July 25.

The incident occurred around 30 km from south of Panaji.

The government employee has now been suspended from service, said Sawant. A process is underway to dismiss him from service, the chief minister added.

During a discussion in the Goa Assembly on Wednesday, Sawant said: “When 14-year-olds stay on the beach the whole night, the parents need to introspect. Just because children don’t listen, we cannot put the responsibility on the government and police.”

The chief minister, who holds the state’s home affairs portfolio too, said that the police were blamed in such cases but teenagers, particularly minors, “should not be spending the nights on beaches”, reported PTI.

“We directly blame police, but I want to point out that of the 10 youth who went to the beach for a party, four stayed on the beach the whole night and the remaining six went home,” Sawant said in the Assembly.

However, the Opposition pointed out that the safety of all citizens was the responsibility of the police and the state government.

“The government is failing in keeping Goa safe, and its negligence is making society unsafe for women and minors!” Goa Forward Party MLA Vijai Sardesai tweeted. “Under Chief Minister Pramod Sawant law and order and the safety of all Goans has completely failed. We need Goa to be a safe, crime-free state where women are safe all the time!”

Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte said it was shocking that the chief minister was blaming parents for allowing the minors to go out at night. “If [the] state government cannot assure us our security, who can give it?” he asked in a tweet. “Goa has a history of being [a] safe state for women, that tag is being lost in the BJP rule.”

Congress’ Goa unit spokesperson Altone D’Costa on Thursday said that the law and order situation in the state had deteriorated. “Why should we fear while moving around at night?” he asked, according to PTI. “Criminals should be in jail and law abiding citizens should be out freely moving around.”

Goa Director General of Police Mukesh Kumar Meena told reporters on Thursday that patrolling along the beaches and isolated spots has been intensified to avoid recurrence of such crimes.