Amid nationwide grief, Maneka wants death for child rapists

New Delhi: Amid nationwide grief over gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) Kathua, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi on Friday said that her Ministry would appeal for death penalty for culprits under Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

In a video message, Gandhi said she was “deeply, deeply” disturbed by the Kathua rape case.

“I have been deeply, deeply disturbed by the rape case in Kathua and all the recent rape cases that have happened on children. I and the Ministry intend to bring an amendment to the POCSO Act asking for the death penalty for rape on children below 12 years. My Ministry will move a cabinet note on Monday to amend POCSO, the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act,” Gandhi said.

Earlier, J&K Chief Minister (CM) Mehbooba Mufti said that the state government will bring a stringent new law to make death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors. She said her government would ensure that no other child suffered such brutality.

The chorus for justice in Kathua rape case grew louder with Twitter awash with placard protests against child rape. Bollywood actors posted a flurry of tweets the entire day, expressing shock and condemning the incident.

“I am Hindustan. I am ashamed. 8 years old. Gang-raped. Murdered. In temple. #JusticeForOurChild #JusticeForAasifa,” most celebrities posted this placard on Twitter.

Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan tendered a personal apology to the child.

“Does it have to be your own daughter for you to understand what she went through? She could have been my daughter. I feel angry as a man, father and a citizen for failing the child,” Haasan tweeted.

The little girl was kidnapped on January 10, repeatedly gang-raped and killed by a group of men whose motive was to drive her nomadic Bakerwal community out of Kathua. According to the chargesheet, she was starved the entire time and kept sedated till her mutilated body was found on January 17. Before she was strangled, one of the men, a police officer, insisted on raping her one more time.

Eight men have so far been arrested, but Hindu nationalist groups have rushed to their defence. The culprits were all Hindus and the girl belonged to the Bakerwal Muslim community.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “silence” over the rape incidents in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua and Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao was “unacceptable”. He prodded him to speak.

He also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party governments in these states of “protecting rapists”.

“Mr Prime Minister, your silence is unacceptable. What do you think about the growing violence against women and children? Why are accused rapists and murderers protected by the state? India is waiting. Speak up,” Gandhi said in a tweet.

In another tweet earlier, Gandhi thanked people who had taken part in the midnight protest in Delhi against the “slumber” that the Modi government was in and sought justice for the victims.

“Thousands of men and women stood up to be counted in the battle for justice and to protest the rising acts of violence against girls and women.

“I thank each and everyone of you for your support. It shall not be in vain,” Gandhi said while attaching pictures of people who participated in the protest.

Gandhi, who had led the protest Thursday night, was joined by his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and her husband Robert Vadra, hundreds of party workers and senior party leaders.

Meanwhile, the BJP on Friday alleged that the Congress was playing “dirty politics”.

Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, BJP MP and spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi told the media: “In Kathua rape case, a fair probe is going on and strictest action has been demanded against the culprits.”

“A SIT (Special Investigation Team) was formed and six-seven persons were arrested. Also, I would like to say it on record that the Jammu Bar Association president (B.S.) Slathiaji was the polling agent of Ghulam Nabi Azadji,” Lekhi said.

“On one hand Salathiaji is demanding for justice, while on the other hand, he has called to shut down the High Court. Now you all can imagine what kind of dirty politics is being played in the country,” she said.

Unnao case

Meanwhile, in another development, Allahabad HC on Friday asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to immediately arrest Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) Bangarmau legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is accused of raping an 18-year-old girl from Unnao last year. The court has sought a progress report on May 2.

“Sengar should not just be detained but arrested,” the court said.

The father of the rape survivor had died on Monday under mysterious circumstances in Unnao jail. After being allegedly roughed up by accused leader Sengar’s brother and accomplices a few days ago, the father sustained multiple injuries and died while being taken to Unnao district hospital.

Reacting to the developments, UP CM Yogi Adityanath said that his government would not tolerate crime and corruption and every culprit would be punished without considering the position and power of the person.

“As soon as the matter came up to the state government, we formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and according to the reports of SIT, arrests have been made. CBI has also been brought in and they have taken the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) in custody. The government will not tolerate crime,” the CM told media.

A CBI team reached UP’s Makhi village on Friday to record the statement of the Unnao rape survivor. The FIR also names a co-accused Shashi Singh, who allegedly took the woman to the MLA’s residence on June four, on the pretext of recommending a job for her from the leader.

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