The family of a woman and her minor daughter gang-raped by highway bandits accused Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan on Tuesday of heaping “more agony” on them by terming the incident a possible “opposition conspiracy” to defame the state government.
“Would he have made a similar statement had his own family faced such an ordeal?” questioned the Noida-based man whose wife and daughter were sexually assaulted near Bulandshahr on Friday night.
“The statement made by Azam Khan has further agonised us,” said the husband-father of the survivors who he said were in shock and were “not speaking” to anybody.
The family also vented their anger on ruling Samajwadi Party leader Rakesh Yadav who visited their Ghaziabad residence.
The incident took place late on Friday night when five members of the family were travelling to Shahjahanpur in a car. The gang of dacoits waylaid the vehicle, looted cash and other valuables before dragging the 13-year-old girl and her mother to a field and raping them.
Three accused have been arrested though four others are still absconding. The family of three has threatened to commit suicide if police fail to “deliver justice” within three months.
The incident has sparked outrage across the country which introduced stringent laws to prevent sexual assault of women after the December 2012 gang rape and murder of a paramedical student in Delhi.
Khan, known for his controversial comments, came under attack from political parties including the BJP which said that the minister has crossed all limits of decency by indulging in politics over a sensitive issue.
Khan added to the anger by saying: “It must be investigated whether people, with the opposite ideology or those who want to come to power, are behind this incident in order to malign the government.”
On Tuesday Khan said his remarks were misconstrued since UP was headed for elections.
“We understand their pain. We cannot change the truth…This is an insult to the government. Which government will want such an incident?”
However, his comments left his own party squirming in embarrassment.
“What can I say about it? I would not like to comment on what our senior leader has said,” SP leader CP Rai said.
Senior ministers and party spokepersons Shivpal Yadav and Rajendra Chowdhary were not available for comments.
The BJP and Congress took potshots at Khan for trivialising the issue.
“His comments either reflect loss of mental balance or an attempt to further agonise the victims. I request Mulayam Singh ji to discard love for his friendship and remove such people from the party,” said UP BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya who visited the family with Union minister Mahesh Sharma.
In Delhi, BJP national secretary Srikant Sharma gave out statistics to highlight alleged lawlessness in the state.
UP tops the list in crime against women, he said, adding that 2,920 rape cases were reported between March, 2012 and March, 2016, besides 12,198 murders and 6,015 robberies.
“What can you expect from a party whose top leaders have earlier been caught on camera defending rape as ‘bacchon ki galti’ (mistakes of childhood)? This kind of approach is what has encouraged leaders like Khan to make such comments,” said Congress leader Satyadeo Tripathi.
Faced with mounting political pressure, the government said chief minister Akhilesh Yadav will meet the family on August 4 in Ghaziabad.
(With agency inputs)