Horrific New Delhi gang rape: prominent religious leader blames the victim

THE fury that flared up in India and other parts of the world following the gang rape, and subsequent death of  23-year-old physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh Pandey, has been further inflamed with the outrageously insensitive words of well-known Indian “spiritual” leader Asaram  Bapu, who said the victim could have avoided the attack.

Leading Indian guru Asaram Bapu

Leading Indian guru Asaram Bapu

On Monday, according to this report, the guru Bapu said the young woman could have prevented the rape by taking guru diksha (a kind of spiritual initiation between guru and disciple) and chanting the “Saraswati Mantra” (a mantra directed at the goddess Saraswati for the purpose of acquiring knowledge, wisdom and good fortune).

India’s Cable News Network-Indian Broadcasting Network (CNN-IBN) quoted Bapu as telling a gathering of followers:

Those who were at fault [of the gang-rape] were drunk. Had she taken guru diksha and chanted the Saraswati Mantra, she would not have boarded any random bus after watching a movie with her boyfriend. Even if she did, she should have taken God’s name and asked for mercy.

Bapu, who survived a helicopter crash last August, reportedly added:

She should have called them [her rapists] brothers, fallen at their feet and pleaded for mercy. Had she said, ‘I am a weak woman, you are my brothers,’ such brutality would not have happened.

The Asian News International news agency also quoted Asaram as stating that the alleged rapists:

Are not the [only] culprits. The victim is as guilty as her rapists.

To further inflame an already raw and sensitive topic, the guri said he opposed harsher sentences against rapists because he feared such legislation would be misused.

According to this report, The BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad described Asaram Bapu’s statement as:

Regrettable, deeply disturbing and painful.

Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit added:

Such comments should be condemned as much as possible.

His party colleague Rashid Alvi said:

Political leaders, including religious leaders, must give serious thought before they speak out.

The student who was raped and assaulted with an iron rod by six men died in a Singapore hospital on December 29. She fought for her life for 13 days in hospitals first in Delhi and then Singapore. Doctors commented on her remarkable fighting spirit; her parents said she wanted to live; her boyfriend, who was with her on the bus and was also attacked , said that when the the assailants turned on him, she jumped in to protect him.

This young woman was one of many thousands who protested in India following the gang rape

This young woman was one of many thousands who protested in India following the gang rape

Spurred by huge public demonstrations, the government has promised to introduce better policing for women’s safety, and tougher anti-rape laws. It has also pledged “the severest punishment” to the men accused of murdering and raping the young woman.

The Mirror reports that five men accused of the gang rape and murder of the women appeared in court yesterday amid chaotic scenes and tight security.

Two of the suspects have offered to give evidence against their co-accused possibly in return for a lighter sentence in the case.

Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal, closed the hearing to the media and the public saying:

Keeping in view the sensitivity of this case that has risen, the proceedings including the inquiry and trial are to be held in camera.

The five suspects – named as Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur – were transferred from prison in police vans under heavy armed guard to Saket district court in New Delhi. They are due in court again on Thursday.

Two of the accused, Sharma and Gupta, moved an application on Saturday requesting they be made “approvers”, or informers, against the other accused

The prosecutor told the court he was seeking the death sentence given the “heinous” crime.

The five accused persons deserve not less than the death penalty.

The sixth member of the gang that lured the student and a male friend into the private bus is under 17 and will be tried in a separate juvenile court.

The court appearance comes as Jyoti’s grieving father Badri Singh Pandey said he wants a hospital built in her name as a lasting memorial.

Pandey, 53, spoke out after finally deciding to reveal his tragic daughter’s identity – to give strength to other victims.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that a new campaign asking Muslim men and women to speak out against domestic violence is being launched in Scotland.

The Change This campaign wants people to report any violence they have seen or experienced.

The Muslim women’s charity Amina will use Islamic teachings and an Imam to challenge the misconception that Islam allows violence against women.

The charity said it was aware of many cases where people used their religion in an attempt to justify violence.

Smina Akhtar, from Amina, said she had been shocked by the way people had manipulated the teachings of Islam.

We have women coming in, phoning our helpline, time and time again and saying: ‘My husband said it’s okay, he told me the Koran says it’s okay’. We’re quite surprised that Muslim women are often not educated, even in Islam, because Islam does not condone violence.

Hat tip: M A Chohan and BarrieJohn (Scottish report)