The family of the young woman whose gang-rape and murder in Delhi two years ago triggered worldwide anger, has condemned a senior minister who described the assault as “one small incident of rape”.
Speaking at a tourism conference earlier this week, Arun Jaitley, who currently heads both the finance and defence ministries, said: “One small incident of rape in Delhi, advertised the world over, is enough to cost us millions of dollars in terms of lower tourism.”
Mr Jaitley has since sought to apologise for his words and said he was not trying to trivialise the incident. But the minister’s comments have been seized on both by campaigners and the family of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student who was fatally assaulted.
“Whatever [Mr Jaitley] has said is very wrong. I cannot express in words how much it has hurt us,” the father of the young woman told the AFP news agency. “He is talking about losses to the treasury. What about the irreparable loss that we have suffered?”
Both anecdotal evidence and surveys suggested India’s tourism industry was hit hard by the December 2012 attack on the Delhi student, which made headlines around the world. A study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry found total visitor numbers fell by 25 per cent in the months after the attack and the number of women tourists by 35 per cent.
Mr Jaitley, a senior ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, later apologised and claimed his words had been taken wrongly. A transcript of the minister’s speech posted on an Indian government website does not contain the word “small”.
“I regret that the speech was misconstrued in certain sections, but it was not my intention,” Mr Jaitley told reporters. “I had spoken at length as to factors which hurt tourism in India and one of factors I mentioned was crime against women.”
Mr Modi said recently that a flurry of high-profile sexual assaults had shamed India. Delivering his first Independence Day speech, he urged parents to take responsibility for the way their sons were brought up.
“When we hear about these rapes our heads hang in shame,” he said.