Uproar as guru claims Delhi rape victim was partly to blame

Spiritual leader not alone in condemning actions of Indian women as crisis grows

An Indian spiritual leader has sparked outcry by claiming the student raped and murdered in Delhi was partly responsible for what happened and should have pleaded with her attackers to leave her alone – the latest in a series of controversial comments campaigners say highlight a mindset within the heartland of India that permits such assaults to take place.

Speaking to followers in Rajasthan, Asaram Bapu, a self-styled guru, reportedly said the 23-year-old was “as guilty as her rapists”. He claimed: “The five or six drunken men were not the only ones guilty. The girl was also responsible... she should have called the culprits ‘brothers’ and begged them to stop.”

Mr Asaram has little international profile but he is far from an inconsequential figure. His comments echo those from a series of religious leaders and provincial politicians who wield significant influence in India, particularly in rural areas. While large groups of students gather in the city night after night calling for the attack to be a watershed in the way Indian society treats its women, there is an equally vocal and powerful lobby that believes it is women who need to change.

Despite this, Mr Asaram’s comments have been widely condemned, not least by the family of the student who was killed. “It is an absolutely illogical statement,” the woman’s brother told the Press Trust of India at the family home in Uttar Pradesh. “We had immense respect for Asaram Bapu and also have many books related to him but as soon as we get back to Delhi we will put them on [the] fire.”

Dr Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, a Delhi-based NGO, said the comments were indicative of attitudes in much of the country. “His is the deep-seated mentality which creates a culture and traditions that are oppressive to women. Now it’s coming into the open in a brazen way,” she said.

The comments of Mr Asaram followed remarks by male religious and political leaders that have created turmoil in the aftermath of the fatal attack. Indeed, there have been so many that one Indian newspaper, the Hindustan Times, featured a selection of them this week under the headline, “Most outrageous remarks on rape”.

Among the most controversial was the comment by a provincial minister from Chhattisgarh, Nanki Ram Kanwar, who said sexual assaults on women were taking place because “women’s stars are not in their favour”. He made the remark blaming astrology after allegations emerged that 11 tribal girls had been raped by a teacher in the state.

Another high-profile figure to create an outcry was Mohan Bhagwat, head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu organisation that has links to India’s main opposition party, who suggested sexual assaults were caused by Western influences and did not happen in the “villages and forests of the country”.

Today, another political leader, Abu Azmi, said women were being attacked because they were wearing fewer clothes. “Women should not venture out with men who are not relatives,” said Mr Azmi, a politician from Maharashtra and a leader of the Samajwadi Party. “Incidents [such as the Delhi gang-rape] happen due to influence of Western culture,” he added.

According to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, 24,206 rape cases were registered in India in 2011. Last week, it emerged that Indian politicians facing sexual assault charges could be suspended from office if the country’s highest court supports a petition submitted by activists. Six state politicians are facing rape prosecutions and two national politicians face other charges of crimes against women, Jagdeep Chhokar, an official with the Association for Democratic Reforms, said. 

Aware of the mounting public anger, the major political parties have condemned the comments of Mr Asaram. But he has refused to back down and instead blamed the media. “The media has created a controversy but what did I say that was wrong?” he said. “One dog barked and [the media] joined in. Dogs will bark but they can’t harm an elephant’s dignity.”

Police have got the wrong men, says lawyer

A lawyer who says he has been retained to represent three of the suspects accused of brutally gang-raping a woman in Delhi has claimed they will plead not guilty and will tell the court the police have detained the wrong men.

Mohan Lal Sharma said he had been contacted by relatives to represent Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh and Akshay Thakur. He forwarded to The Independent legal documents that appeared to show the men had granted him the power of attorney.

“I believe they will be saying in court that they are not guilty,” said Mr Sharma. “I believe they are not the persons who did the rape.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living