After days of outrage over the silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the rapes of two minors, one in Kathua and the other in Unnao, the party’s spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi held a press conference on Friday.
Lekhi, however, only spoke of the timeline of the two cases and maintained that the police and the state governments had acted promptly in both cases. She also used the press conference to accuse the Opposition of “communalising the case” and trying to “blame the Centre”.
In the Kathua case, eight people including a juvenile were chargesheeted for abducting an eight-year-old child, holding her captive in a temple, drugging and raping her repeatedly before murdering her. Her body was found in the forests near Rasana in Jammu and Kashmir on January 17.
On Friday, Lekhi also appeared to defend the two MLAs who had supported the men accused of the crime at rallies in Jammu and Kashmir earlier this year. “They should not have protested,” she said. “They should have ideally not commented until an investigation was conducted.” But the MLAs were “misguided”, she said.
She added that the Jammu and Kashmir Police had conducted an investigation and arrested the accused, and that the protests and vigils by the Opposition was its way to “communalise the crime”. Lekhi was referring to the protest march Congress President Rahul Gandhi led in New Delhi on Thursday midnight.
Lekhi said this was the Congress’ plan – “first shout ‘minority minority’, then ‘Dalit Dalit’, and now ‘women women’ and try to somehow blame the Centre”. She said the party was ignoring the action being taken by state governments, and asked why there were no candlelight marches for other rape victims.
“Apart from Kathua and Unnao, there was another case in Assam’s Naigon where a Class 12 student was raped first and then burnt to death. Why no candle march for her?” The BJP spokesperson also alleged that the media was misreporting the cases.
Union minister VK Singh was the first government representative to speak about the Kathua rape on Thursday, when he said: “With what happened to the eight-year-old girl in Kathua, it seems being a human is an insult, and animals are better.” On Friday, another minister, Maneka Gandhi, said she was “deeply disturbed” by the incident.
On the Unnao case, Lekhi said the girl who accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar of rape did not mention his name before a magistrate’s court in 2017. “She later took his name, which resulted in a complaint being filed by the accused against the girl’s family,” Lekhi said.
The Unnao case came into the spotlight after the teenager attempted suicide outside Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath’s house on Sunday, and after her father died in judicial custody Monday.
‘No compromise on zero-tolerance policy on crime’
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Friday said his government had not compromised on its zero-tolerance policy on crime and corruption. He said a special investigation team was constituted as soon as the Unnao rape case came to notice. The policemen and doctors who were found guilty were suspended, he added.
Adityanath said: “We have referred the matter to the CBI...our government will not compromise on the zero-tolerance policy it has followed against crime and corruption since the beginning. We will firmly deal with criminals, however influential they might be.”
Senior state minister Siddharth Nath Singh criticised the opposition for “shedding crocodile tears” on the issue of women’s safety. He said former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had shielded his minister Gayatri Prajapati, who was also accused of rape.
Union minister Smriti Irani said stern action will be taken against those who are found guilty in the Unnao rape case. “I appeal to the people to have faith in the legal process,” Irani said. “The CBI is investigating the matter. Our government is with the victim’s family.”