Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal on Thursday expressed grief over the death of a teenager who was allegedly eve teased and then jumped off a bus that is owned by him and his family.
"I am aggrieved over this incident. It is unfortunate that bus belongs to us. Whatever happened is not good and it is like Himalayan blunder. It is the biggest sin," Singh told reporters.
A 13-year-old girl reportedly died and her mother was seriously injured when they had to jump out of a moving private bus to avoid molestation by some youth along with the bus conductor near Punjab's Moga town.
The incident occurred on Wednesday evening.
He said a police complaint has been registered under section 203, and two people have already been arrested in this regard while efforts are on to nab others.
"I will issue instructions to the concerned authorities to ensure that such an incident does not take place in future," he assured.
On being questioned by media on the ownership of the bus, the chief minister agreed that the bus service is owned by his son and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal. He , however declined, being part of the company.The incident, however, triggered a volley of reactions from leaders across the political spectrum.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP, the ruling party in alliance with the Badal's Akali Dal in Punjab, described the incident as "unfortunate" and welcomed a discussion if called for by the Opposition in the parliament.
"This incident is unfortunate and we extend our sympathy to the family of the victim. But such incidents are a subject of state's law and order. There is a tradition of not discussing such issues of state matter in the parliament. But if the opposition wants to discuss this issue, we welcome it," Naqvi told reporters outside the parliament.
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is also the chief minister's daughter-in-law, strongly condemned the incident and said she would inquire about the company that owns the bus.
"I will check who owns the bus. I read about the incident only in the papers this morning. I strongly condemn what happened. The trend of violence against women in the country must be addressed earnestly," she said.
Hitting out at the ruling Badal family in the state, AAP MP Bhagwant Singh Mann from Punjab said: "It's very shocking. It is very shameful. It must be a petty incident for the Badal family that owns the bus. But a small girl lost her life. Such goons travel in their buses and eve tease. And the driver didn't stop even when that girl protested against being eve teased. If anything, the conductor helped them."
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat noted that such recurrent incidents demonstrate government's nonchalance towards the issue of gender violence.
"It really shows that there is absolutely no lesson being learned by the government," she questioned.
BJP MP Uma Bharati called for the police and the administration to stay alert at all times take action against such misconduct.
"Education institutions will have to create an environment in the country that people learn to respect women. And the society itself needs to fight such anti-social elements," she added.
Meanwhile, Punjab Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa, who went to Moga to meet the injured woman, said the Punjab and Haryana high court should take suo motu action.
"The district administration and the police will never act against this transport company. My request to the chief justice is that in the interest of justice, on humanitarian grounds, you please take up these matter suo motu and order a time-bound judicial inquiry," he said.
AAP MP Bhagwant Mann demanded that the Badals come clean on the issue and said "Punjab has become the safest place for criminals".
Chief minister Badal said the other accused would be arrested soon. "It is very unfortunate and a sad incident. I condemn it The police have arrested two accused and others will be nabbed soon," he told reporters in Chandigarh.
"I agree it is a grave crime. But what can I do more when some else has commmitted a crime. And two arrests have already been made and more are in process
"I have been pained to hear this. Entire humanity gets hurt," he said.