The mother of a student who was fatally gang raped on a bus led the outrage yesterday against an Indian political leader who described three convicted multiple rapists as “poor fellows” who had made “mistakes.”
During a rally in the state of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, Mulayam Singh Yadav said his Samajwadi Party would try to change the law on punishments for rapists after India’s ongoing elections as he spoke out in defense of three men who have been sentenced to death for repeat sexual assaults.
“Three poor fellows have been sentenced to death. Should rape cases lead to hanging?” said the 74-year-old Yadav, whose party governs the electorally crucial state.
“They are boys, they make mistakes,” he added in reference to the three who were sentenced to death by a court in Mumbai last week after they were convicted of taking part in two gang rapes at the same place.
They were the first death sentences to be handed down for multiple sex attacks since the law was toughened in the wake of the outrage over the December 2012 attack on a bus in New Delhi.
The mother of the 23-year-old New Dehli victim called Yadav a “disgusting and shameless” politician and urged voters to reject leaders who “don’t understand the torture women go through.”
“His comments hurt us so much,” said the mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
“Every day women get raped and they are all mistakes? He talks about doing away with the death sentence for rapists but parents like us feel even death is not enough for rapists. They deserve worse,” she said.
Yadav’s remarks sparked a backlash on social media where #backingrapists and “Mulayam Singh” were top topics on Twitter.
That anger was fueled by rambling comments from the party’s leader in the state of Maharashtra who appeared to call for rape victims to be hanged along with their attackers on the grounds that they had extramarital sex.
Although the party’s power is largely limited to Uttar Pradesh, its strength in the nation’s most populous state could mean it has a king-making role in coalition negotiations after the general elections wrap up next month.
Voters in the nation’s capital went to the polls on Thursday, with New Dehli a key battleground for an anti-corruption party which shot to fame last year.
Ballots were also cast in densely populated rural constituencies in northern India where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — seen as the frontrunner — is expected to poll strongly.
However, Thursday was of particular importance for the 18-month-old anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which triumphed in the Delhi state election in December last year and is now contesting more than 400 parliamentary seats nationally.
The party has struggled to shake the “quitter” tag following the dramatic resignation of party chief Arvind Kejriwal just 49 days after he came to office as New Dehli’s chief minister.
“We need stability. So I won’t waste my vote on him,” Jitender Singh, a 38-year-old rickshaw driver in a purple turban, said on Thursday in the old part of the city. “For now it is Modi, Modi, Modi for me. For the country actually.”
He was referring to BJP prime ministerial candidate, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a hardline Hindu nationalist tipped to become prime minister.
His alleged links to anti-Muslim riots in his home state of Gujarat and his uncompromising public statements make him a polarizing figure, particularly for religious minorities, but many voters have been swayed by his promises of economic development, strong leadership and clean government.