In a country that has been severely humiliated, hurt and is trying to come to terms with the brutality meted out to its women, on Monday spiritual leader Asaram Bapu made sure it was steeped in further shame.
Speaking about the victim of the recent gangrape in Delhi, the self-proclaimed Godman claimed, “She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop. This could have saved her dignity and life.”
Perched cross-legged on a stage (presumably in Jaipur), Asaram Bapu spoke in an even, matter-of-fact tone, “Can one hand clap? I don’t think so,” he added.
This statement comes at a time when the country has been seriously debating rape laws, social attitudes towards women and the sociological make-up of the Indian society that permits brutal crimes against women.
This is also the latest amongst several public statements made by organisations such as the RSS and the Jamat-e-Islami Hind. While the RSS Chief blamed increasing western influence on the Indian society and called for a return to “pristine Indian values”, the Jamat called for an abolition of co-education and proclaimed the abolition to be the magic wand that would wish rapes away.
Politicians, academics and activists have condemned Asaram Bapu’s statement, but the question remains – how to rein in public figures who make irresponsible statements? Who are they accountable to? Asaram Bapu’s followers have not come down harshly on him.