A Samajwadi Party leader on Tuesday blamed late-night partying by women in “half dress” for a string of alleged sexual assaults during New Year eve celebrations in Bengaluru that has sparked outrage across the country.
The comments by Maharashtra’s SP unit chief Abu Azmi came a day after Karnataka home minister G Parameshwara faced a backlash for criticising women dressed “like westerners” during the celebrations in the state capital.
“Partying late night in half attire, blindly following western culture, has never been our culture. Ladies hailing from well-to-do families…they come out in decent attire and mostly with their family members,” PTI quoted Azmi as saying.
“But when few women in half dress come out on streets at late night with their friends, such incidents do occur,” said Azmi, an MLA from suburban Mumbai.
Activists blame widespread misogyny and a patriarchal mindset for the growing incidents of sexual assaults on women in India.
The top leader of Azmi’s party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, had earlier faced flak for brushing away an incident of sexual assault by saying, “boys will be boys”.
Though no complaint has been lodged till now, reports said several women were molested and groped and lewd remarks were passed by unidentified men in a posh area of Bengaluru. The state government said it had deployed 1,500 policemen for crowd control.
Azmi also defended Parameshwara, saying the Karnataka minister “said the harsh reality” and added, “these kind of things do happen when women try to copy the westerners, not only in their mindset but even in their dressing”.
Parameshwara, who later claimed to have been misquoted, was condemned for his televised comments, with the junior home minister Kiren Rijiju describing them as “irresponsible”.
Home minister Rajnath Singh also said “protecting modesty of women is duty of the state government”.
The National Commission for Women chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam said summons have been issued to Parameshwara and Azmi over their remarks.
Kumaramangalam had earlier said Parameshwara should resign over his comments.
“I want to ask this minister: are Indian men so pathetic and weak that when they see a woman in western clothes on a day of revelry, they get out of control?
“When will the Indian men learn to respect women? The minister should apologise to the women of the country and resign,” Kumaramangalam said.
Police said they are trawling through CCTV footage to see if they can identify any of the attackers.
“We have appealed to the public to come forward if they have evidence in any form,” senior Bangalore police officer Malini Krishnamoorthy was quoted by AFP as saying.