Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday hit back at the Bharatiya Janata Party, saying that the Punjab and Rajasthan governments were not denying the allegations of rape. Gandhi’s comment came after BJP leaders targeted the Congress MP and his family for raising the Hathras gangrape for political reasons.

“Unlike in UP [Uttar Pradesh], the governments of Punjab and Rajasthan are NOT denying that the girl was raped, threatening her family and blocking the course of justice,” he said on Twitter. “If they do, I will go there to fight for justice.” While Punjab and Rajasthan are Congress-ruled states, BJP has its government in Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier in the day, Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Prakash Javadekar had attacked Congress leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi over the rape of a six-year-old Dalit girl in Punjab, saying they visit “every other place that can help them politically”.

“A six-year-old child of a Dalit migrant labourer from Bihar is raped, killed and the body half-burnt in Hoshiarpur and it doesn’t shake the conscience of the brother and sister who rush to every other place which can help them politically,” Sitharaman said.

Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Javadekar also lashed out at Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. “The rape and murder of a six-year-old Dalit girl from Bihar, in Hoshiarpur’s Tanda village, is very shocking,” he said. “Instead of going on political tours, Rahul Gandhi should visit Tanda and Rajasthan, and take cognisance of incidents of crime against women.”

Javadekar said neither Sonia Gandhi nor Priyanka or Rahul Gandhi had visited the family of the girl in Tanda, unlike in Hathras. “They do not pay heed to the injustice done to women in the states ruled by their party, but visit Hathras and other places for photo-op with the victim’s family,” he added.

The Union ministers were taking a swipe at Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi’s visit to Hathras where four upper caste Thakur men had raped a 19-year-old Dalit woman and later she died of her injuries last month. The incident had led to massive protests by Opposition parties.

Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have raised the Hathras rape case to attack the Adityanath-led government. The two Congress leaders had met the woman’s family on October 3. They had tried to go to Hathras on October 1 too, but were detained by the police. Later in the day, the police filed a first information report against them under sections 188, 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act.

On October 16, Rahul Gandhi had criticised the Uttar Pradesh government over another alleged incident of rape and asked how many more cases like Hathras would take place in the state. “Unable to prevent rape, the Uttar Pradesh government, instead of getting justice for the victim’s family, was again suppressing facts to save the accused,” the Congress leader had tweeted. “How many more girls? How many more Hathras?”

The Hathras case

The Hathras case complainant had died of her injuries on September 29. In the events that followed, the Uttar Pradesh government forcibly cremated the body of the woman even as her family was detained in their home by the police, with the aim to stop the incident from becoming a focus of protests.

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A Bobde had on October 6 called the incident “extraordinary” and “shocking”. The case has now been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation, based on a recommendation by the Adityanath government, who has vowed justice for the woman.

Sandeep Thakur, the main accused, has written to the state police chief from jail claiming that the men were being framed. He had also claimed that the woman was a victim of “honour killing” as her family was opposed to their “friendship”.