Karnataka Congress legislator Shakuntala Shetty has blamed mobile phones for rapes, embarrassing the ruling party at a time when a spate of sex crimes has rocked the nation and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked politicians not to "psychoanalyse" the reason behind such cases.
The coastal Karnataka MLA's explanation came close on the heels of her advice to Muslim girls to "join the mainstream" by shedding the burqa.
Kicking up a fresh controversy, the Karnataka Legislature Committee for Women and Child Development headed by Shetty recommended a ban on mobile phones in schools and colleges in a report tabled before the state assembly on Friday, linking the use of the gadget to growing rapes in the country.
"Mobile phones are spoiling the atmosphere in schools and colleges. They are used to lure girls to remote places where they are raped," the report said.
Shetty, who had been a BJP MLA from 2004 to 2007, joined the Congress in February 2013 and won a seat in the assembly elections held last summer.
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Reacting to the controversy, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said there was nothing wrong in children using mobile phones.
"I haven't seen this report so I can't comment, but my personal opinion is that it doesn't affect the behaviour of children."
Union minister Ananth Kumar, however, said, "I think mobile phones should not be allowed in schools and colleges."
Shetty also got some support from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sagh (RSS). She had started her political career as a Sangh Parivar activist and was once a close associate of controversial RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, who is facing several cases for alleged hate speeches.
Coming out in Shetty's support, Prabhakar Bhat told HT on Saturday, "She is absolutely right."
Bajrang Dal state convenor Sharan Pumpwell too supported the mobile phone ban proposal.
Shetty, however, distanced herself from her former colleagues and said, "I don't believe in their ideology any more. My recommendation was based on deep study."
Shakun Mohini, a leading women's rights campaigner, said, "It is like banning cars because they have been used to abduct women. This is another roundabout way of blaming the victim for the crime."
The single point recommendation in the report of the 23-member committee headed by Shetty is mentioned in a chapter under the title, "rape/missing cases of women".
The report refers to the rising incidents of rape across the country and cites incidents including the 2012 Delhi gang-rape as well as the Badaun case, which have made "Indians hang their heads in shame before the entire world".
"We have found during our interactions that mobile is the reason behind kidnap and rape among school and college going girls," PTI quoted Shetty as saying.
"When I did go through two or three rape cases of minor girls, what they told me was that they had got a missed call and out of curiosity they wanted to find out about it and it started from there...."
(With PTI inputs)