As rape cases in Haryana become ominously routine, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday visited the family of a 15-year-old victim who couldn’t bear the trauma and committed suicide.
Offering condolences to the Dalit family at their village home in Jind district, Gandhi said, “I strongly condemn such barbaric incidents of crime against women. The perpetrators of such acts should be given the severest punishment.”
She also took on the khap panchayats, which had suggested lowering the marriage age to serve as a deterrent to such crimes. “We have a democratic set-up and law is in the hands of the judiciary, not anyone else,” she said.
However, defending the Congress-ruled state, Gandhi said: “Rape cases aren’t (happening) in Haryana alone but are being reported from across the country and need to be curbed.”
On October 6, the minor was allegedly raped by two men while a female accomplice kept watch. Later in the day, she set herself afire. Police have arrested five persons, including the woman and her policeman husband.
There were 12 rapes in the state in September, according to media reports, including one in which a victim’s father killed himself.
“Gandhi assured a job to one member of the family, financial assistance and police security,” said the girl’s uncle. “We demanded stringent action against the accused and she agreed.”
Accompanied by chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and senior Congress leaders, Gandhi reached the house at 10.05 am and spent 10 minutes with the girl’s parents, siblings and grandmother. “She hugged me and my bed-ridden mother-in-law and we were moved by her healing touch,” the mother said.
“The Haryana government will ensure strict, immediate action against perpetrators of crimes against women,” said state PWD minister Randeep Surjewala. “These would be put in fast-track courts to ensure speedy justice.”
Hooda did not speak to the media.