Madhya Pradesh’s Director General of Police VK Singh has courted controversy by claiming that fake kidnapping cases are increasing because girls and boys interact more often at present, ANI reported on Sunday.

“A new trend which we see under Section 363 [of the Indian Penal Code] is the increasing independence of women,” the police chief said at a press conference in Gwalior on July 4. “They go to school and college. The increasing independence of women is a reality of today’s society. In this scenario, their interaction with boys is a reality. The girls leave homes in such situations and then a kidnapping case is filed.” Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the criminal offence of kidnapping.

“Criminals from neighbouring states have set up base here,” Singh added. “There is also the traditional reason – criminal tribes who come here. We have to control this.”

State Home Minister Bala Bachchan parried a question by reporters about Singh’s comments. “In our review meeting, the government’s intentions were made clear that if crime is committed under any police station, then the staff including seniors will be held responsible,” NDTV quoted him as saying. “We are committed to a safer Madhya Pradesh and to protecting our citizens.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party said Singh’s remark was irresponsible. “He should avoid such general and irresponsible statements,” said party spokesperson Rahul Kothari. “He is the chief of the state police. We are witnessing crime against women on the rise, they are not able to control it... They should concentrate on how to prevent kidnapping and crime against women instead of giving such statements.”

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 7,237 cases of kidnapping were registered in Madhya Pradesh in 2016, and in 69% of those cases the victims were girls.