The Lok Sabha on Friday witnessed heated debates after a rape complainant was set ablaze in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, PTI reported.

Two brothers had allegedly raped the 23-year-old woman last year. She had filed a case against them in March. The woman was on her way to a local court for a hearing in her rape case on Thursday when she was attacked by five men – two of whom were the rape accused – and set on fire. All five men were arrested within hours.

The debate in the Lower House began with Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury criticising the Bharatiya Janata Party for the episode. “The Unnao victim has 95% burns, what is going on in the country?” he said in the House, according to ANI. “On one hand, there is a Lord Ram temple being built and on the other hand, Sita Maiya is being set ablaze,” he said in seeming reference to the Uttar Pradesh rape complainant.

Chowdhury alleged that Uttar Pradesh had turned into “adharm pradesh [lawless state]”, and noted that there were rape cases in Malda, West Bengal, and Hyderabad, Telangana. The Congress leader is an MP from Berhampore in West Bengal.

Following this, Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani, criticised the Congress for politicising and communalising the matter. “Yes, setting a woman on fire is condemnable, a heinous crime,” she said. “Yes, the rape and killing of a woman is inhuman, but do not politicise the issue. No one has ever communalised the issue in this House.”

Irani said that during panchayat elections in West Bengal, “rape was used as a political weapon”.

Irani’s remarks triggered shouting from members of the Congress in the Lower House. Congress MPs TN Prathapan and Dean Kuriakose left their seats and came near the Well. They were reportedly shouting at Irani, who asked them to stop.

Further uproar ensued in the Lok Sabha as Union minister Prakash Javadekar called for an apology from the Congress, and asked the treasury benches to condemn the legislators’ actions. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi also sought apologies for the conduct of the two Congress MPs.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said Irani was speaking on the Centre’s behalf but was interrupted.

BJP’s SS Ahluwalia asked Congress leader Chowdhury to apologise for his party legislators’ behaviour.

Speaker Om Birla said it was inappropriate to make political remarks and come to the Well of the House. The House was first adjourned till 1.30 pm and then till 2.30 pm as the BJP sought an apology from the Congress.

After the House reconvened, Joshi said the two Congress MPs had not returned intentionally, and reiterated the demand for an apology or suspension.

In its defence, the Congress said it was only asking for an explanation on the government’s action in the rape cases. “We were protesting this,” said Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi, according to PTI. “In protest, we did not come to the well of the house but protested from our seats.”

Later in the day, Irani said that she was waiting for the Opposition’s punishment against her. “I have to see what more punishment the opposition gives to me in the House on Monday after I spoke in the interest of women,” she said.

Also read:

Hyderabad encounter killing may seem like justice, but here’s why no good can come of it