Rita Bahuguna Joshi, UP Congress President, tells Neha Dixit that Mayawati should realise that money cannot compensate being raped
You said that dalit women raped in UP should tell Mayawati, “You too should be raped and then given Rs 1 crore as compensation.” What would your reaction be if such a statement was made about you?
The remarks were not about any individual per se. I had simply sought to draw the people’s attention to the fact that Mayawati’s dole of Rs 25,000 to every dalit rape victim was quite ironic, as the state police chief was spending lakhs of rupees on the helicopter rides he undertakes to hand over that paltry amount to the victims. My intention was to remind Mayawati that being a woman, she should realise that a paltry monetary compensation cannot make up for what a woman loses on account of rape. My statement was misconstrued because I named Mayawati. I later realised that I shouldn’t have. Which is why I quickly apologised.
Being a woman do you think it was irresponsible of you to make such a statement about another woman?
Since the beginning of my political career I have been a part of various womens’ movements. I was merely pointing to the state government’s insensitivity to the exploitation of women. My basic point is that the crime graph [in Uttar Pradesh] is going up and the rate of conviction against the rape accused is falling. Punishment must be given to them.
You have been charged under the provisions of the SC/ST Act. Is the dalit card being used for political advantage?
Any reference to Mayawati does not mean that the entire dalit community is being talked about. I did not make comments about any caste, so I see no reason for this charge. This is political vendetta. Even the attack on my house was a pre-planned incident stemming from her anxiety over the shifting dalit base of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
So the arson was state-sponsored?
Of course. The looting and burning of my house was statesponsored. Prima facie, Mayawati is indirectly involved. The presence of senior police officials, ruling BSP MLAs and officebearers during the arson is proof of this.
But Mayawati said that stern action as per the law is being taken against those involved in the arson.
A Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department enquiry has been initiated which is not enough. Mayawati will manipulate it. There should be a CBI enquiry.
BSP MLA Intezaar Abdi, who was allegedly involved in the attacks, has also been promoted.
It’s shocking. He is one of the only two people I have named in my FIR. The other one is BSP MLA Jitendra Singh ‘Babloo.’
Do you fear for your life following the attacks?
My house is just 100 yards from the State Secretariat. My house was burnt in the presence of senior police officials. Mayawati must resign on moral grounds. She failed to protect even the high-security zones in the capital. The government is so vindictive and insensitive that after slapping a case and putting me in jail, they feel that my punishment is not complete. Obviously, I do fear for my life but that does not scare me. I will continue to fight for women.
The controversy has forced the Congress to call off its celebrations in UP. Sonia Gandhi has also distanced herself from you. Are you going to offer to step down?
I don’t want to comment on this. The party has decided that it will launch an agitation if the government does not transfer the case to the CBI.