National Commission for Women member Chandramukhi Devi on Thursday said that the gangrape and murder of a 50-year-old woman in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, could have been avoided if she had not stepped out alone in the evening. The video of her statement has been widely circulated on social media.

“Women should not go out at odd times under the influence of any person,” Devi told reporters. “I think this incident would not have occurred if the woman had not stepped out of her house alone or had she been accompanied by a [male] child of the family.”

Devi was a part of a two-member team sent by the NCW to visit the woman’s family.

The NCW member also expressed dissatisfaction with the role of the police in the incident, News18 reported. “If the police would have shown swiftness in the matter, perhaps they could have saved the victim,” she said. The officer in charge of the local police station was suspended on Tuesday after a preliminary inquiry revealed that he was negligent in handling the case.

Hours later, Devi withdrew her comments, saying that it was taken out of context, according to Republic TV. “I did not make the remarks in the context as it was being shown on various news channels,” she said. “But if it is being reflected in any manner that I am saying that women should not go out, I withdraw my comment.”

The NCW member added that she is a staunch supporter that women should have the freedom to go out whenever they feel like to do so.

Before Devi’s clarification, NCW chief Rekha Sharma was questioned about the comments. Responding to a tweet by filmmaker Pooja Bhatt, Sharma said that she did not agree with the remarks of the commission’s representative. “I don’t know how and why the member has said this but women have all the right move on their will whenever and wherever they want to,” she said. “It’s [the] society and state’s duty to make places safe for women.”

During the NCW team’s visit to the house of the woman, the wife and daughter of one of the accused tried to meet the visiting delegation. They claimed that the accused, Jaspal, was innocent, and claimed he was being framed. “My husband got a call that there is a patient and went to do his job,” Jaspal’s wife said, demanding justice. “He came to know about the case later.”

Three men in the Budaun district had on Wednesday allegedly raped and murdered the women. The NCW had taken cognisance of the incident and its chairperson wrote to the Uttar Pradesh director general of police seeking immediate intervention in the matter. The commission also sought a detailed report of action taken.

The case

The police have filed a case against the accused, including a priest, and made two arrests. The priest is still on the run and the police have formed four teams to find him.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath has asked officials to take strict action against the accused. He has also directed the Bareilly additional director general of police (zone) to submit a report and instructed the state special task force to assist in the investigation.

The woman’s husband said that she went to the temple on Sunday evening, but did not return till almost midnight. He added that the accused brought her home in a car, claiming that she had fallen into a well. “My wife was alive by then,” the man said. “But before we could understand anything or ask any question, they left in the car. After a few minutes, my wife succumbed to the injuries.”

However, the woman’s son said his mother was dead when the men dropped her home. “They brought her on their own in a vehicle,” he said. “She was dead when they left her here. The priest and others dropped her at the door and left quickly.”

A video of one of the accused emerged on Monday where he claimed that he and the others had rescued the woman from the well. He also claimed that the woman was alive when he dropped her home.