Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav on Saturday tried to explain away growing incidents of crimes against women in the Uttar Pradesh by making the state's large population an alibi.
"There are 21 crore people in UP, still the number of such cases (crimes against women) is the least here. It is not possible to prevent every crime," Mulayam told a news channel in Delhi.
Another senior Samajwadi Party leader, Naresh Agarwal, termed his leader's statement as the "ground reality".
"Since independence, there is no state where crimes don't occur. In the Lucknow case, the woman had left with a person known to her, but the crime still happened," Agarwal said.
"Crimes against women are happening across the country, not UP alone. Look at what happened in Bangalore. This has become the trend in India and government should introspect," he added.
Read: Mulayam Singh on rape: Boys make mistakes, why hang them?
Their statements come at a time when the gruesome rape of a woman on Lucknow outskirts two days ago has once again put the state government in a tight spot.
Several party leaders, including chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, drew flak for a series of such insensitive remarks while responding to reporters' queries on the gang rape and hanging of two cousins in Badaun district on May 27 this year.
"You do your work, I will do mine," Mulayam had snapped at reporters when asked about rising number of rapes.
Meanwhile, it was learnt the police were close to cracking the gang rape and murder of the 32-year-old mother of two in Mohanlalganj on Wednesday night. The police have interrogated the four suspects, including the one believed to have been present at the spot when the crime happened.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has entrusted additional director general Sutapa Sanyal, who is also the woman nodal officer for crimes against women, with investigation of the case.
SP chief’s statement triggers backlash
Reacting sharply to Mulayam’s statement, women’s rights activist Annie Raja said denial was a bigger crime.
“I completely reject such a formulation by any leader from UP, especially the leaders of the ruling party of the state. Denying is a bigger crime and acceptance itself can solve half of the issue. Only then can they take strict actions to prevent such crimes.”
She added, “The ruling party of UP are politicising violence against women by repeatedly denying the existence of such crimes.”
Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi said it was ironical that the UP government was claiming the number of rapes had come down when more such cases were coming to light.
Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Laxmikant Bajpai said, “Mulayam Singh Yadav won the elections on the plank that the law and order situation will see an improvement in the state, and now he is citing a population of 21 crore as unmanageable.
“A soldier cannot be put behind each individual. It is all about how the government works and manages its responsibilities.”
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) general secretary Tariq Anwar criticised Mulayam, saying leaders need to have control over their language.
“A responsible person should never use such language as it motivates the criminals; the government is completely responsible because its credibility plays a major role.”
HT Analysis: Move on, pass the buck
(With inputs from ANI)