We have failed the eight-year-old child as humans, but she will not be denied justice, Minister of State for External Affairs General VK Singh said on Thursday on the brutal rape and murder of a girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district in January.

“With what happened to the eight-year-old girl in Kathua, it seems being a human is an insult, and animals are better,” the former Army chief of staff said on Twitter. “The criminals should be punished so severely that we can make an example of them for generations.”

Singh’s comments come even as questions were raised online about the the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other political leaders and ministers on the heinous rape and murder case.

The prime minister has so far been mum on the rape and murder case, which has been controversial in Jammu because of the support the accused has received from Hindu groups who even sought to prevent a chargesheet being filed in the matter.

The BJP and its ministers, too, have steered clear of commenting on the Kathua crime, even as two ministers from the party – Kathua MLA Rajeev Jasrotia and Hiranagar MLA Kuldip Raj – attended the rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in protest against the arrest of one of the accused in the rape case.

Gandhi made a statement on the Unnao rape case, in which a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA is the main accused, but he has not said anything about Kathua. Members of the Congress, however, pointed out that others from the party have spoken about the case, even though Gandhi himself has yet to make a statement.

On Thursday, Congress leader Kapil Sibal asked whether the prime minister wanted to send out a message of “betiyaan chuppao” (hide your daughters) instead of “beti bachao” (save your daughters), a jibe at Modi’s “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” campaign on saving the girl child and their education.

Later in the day, the women’s wing of the Congress said the Beti Bachao campaign “has become a mockery” as the “ground reality is dismal”. “The women members of the BJP have sold their souls to Tamasha [drama] Modi,” it said in a statement, saying the India under him had become “RapeIndia”.

Update: Gandhi later tweeted about the rape case on Thursday, saying the crime “cannot go unpunished”.