An Indian spiritual guru has sparked a backlash after saying the 23-year-old student who died after being gang-raped could have averted the tragedy by begging for mercy.
Asharam, known to his followers as “Bapu” or father, told his devotees that blame for the assault on a moving bus in New Delhi on December 16 should not just rest with her attackers.
“This tragedy would not have happened if she had chanted God’s name and fallen at the feet of the attackers. The error was not committed by just one side,” he said in video footage which has been widely circulated on the internet.
The 71-year-old’s remarks – the latest in a series of gaffes by public figures blaming women for India’s rape epidemic – drew a chorus of condemnation.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, spokesman for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the statement was “deeply disturbing and painful”.
Abhijit Mukherjee, the son of India’s president who is a Congress lawmaker, last month compared women who took part in protests over the gang-rape to patched up second-hand cars.
Five men have been charged with rape and murder in the December 16 attack on the young student. A sixth accused, who is 17, is to be tried in a separate court for juveniles.
We can only hope that the widespread condemnation of such remarks in India is the sign of a sea change in that countries rape culture.