Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday visited the family of a 15-year-old Dalit girl, who immolated herself after being allegedly gangraped here on October 6, and said that perpetrators of such "barbaric" crimes must be given the severest punishment.
Gandhi said that rapes were not happening in Haryana alone, but such heinous crimes were being reported from elsewhere too, which needed to be curbed at the earliest. "Main iss tarah ki ghatnaon ki bharpoor ninda karti hoon. Doshiyoon ko sakht se sakht saza milni chahiye (I strongly condemn such incidents. The guilty must be severely punished)," she told reporters in a brief interaction at Sachakhera village in Narwana town of this district.
Responding to a question by a mediaperson on the suggestion of khap panchayats in Haryana to lower the marriageable age of girls to 16 years to curb such crimes, she said, "We have a democratic setup and the law is in the hands of the judiciary, not anyone else."
The Congress president, who was with the mother, father, grandmother and siblings of the girl, for nearly 10 minutes, assured them "speedy justice, safety and monetary relief". "She sat on the mat with us and enquired from our six children about their schooling. She also asked us how we earn our livelihood," said Rajkali, the victim's mother, tears welling up her eyes.
"I told her that we (husband and wife) work as labourers and had gone out for work when our daughter set herself afire and my bedridden mother-in-law was present in the house at that time. She hugged my mother-in-law and me. She said that she will ensure justice is delivered," the mother said.
Balraj Valmiki, the rape victim's father, said that Gandhi consoled the family and assured compensation, police security and stringent action against the accused. "She has assured a government job to one member of the family," said Tarsem, the victim's uncle.
Gandhi, who visited the district amid an outrage over a spate of rape incidents in the state, was accompanied by chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, union minister Kumari Selja, Congress general secretary (in-charge of Haryana affairs) BK Hariprasad and state public works department minister Randeep Singh Surjewala.
The state government had made elaborate security arrangements. A posse of police was deployed on roads leading to the victim's house. Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel provided proximate security.
Local villagers and mediapersons were not allowed anywhere near the victim's house. While Hooda did not speak to the media, Surjewala said that the state government would not tolerate heinous crimes like rape and would ensure strict and immediate action against the perpetrators of crimes against women. "Crimes against women will be put in fast track courts for speedy justice," he added.
Since September 9 this year, 12 cases of rape and gangrape have been reported in the state. The state government has been under flak from opposition parties, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
October 6: A 15-year-old girl is allegedly gangraped by two youths, Pardeep and Navin, when she was going to buy grocery. Humiliated, she immolates herself at her uncle's home. She was rushed to the Narwana civil hospital from where she was referred to PGIMS, Rohtak, whre she died. Police register criminal case against four persons, including a woman.
October 7: Police arrest Sanjeev and Meenu, who assisted the two main accused. The victim was cremated the same day after post-mortem at PGIMS.
October 8: Pardeep and Navin also arrested. Police arrested fifth accused Manoj Kumar following complaint by victim's family.
October 9: UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi visits the house of victim and assures financial help to the family.