New Delhi: Spiritual leader Asaram Bapu courted controversy for suggesting that the victim of the brutal sexual assault in Delhi was equally responsible for the crime and saying the girl could have called her assailants brothers and begged them to stop.
Asaram's remarks on the gangrape of the 23-year-old girl sparked condemnation across the political spectrum and from women's bodies on Monday with the BJP saying it was "regrettable, deeply disturbing and painful".
Addressing his followers recently, Asaram said that when the girl encountered six drunk men "she should have taken God's name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said I consider you as my brother and should have said to the other two 'Brother I am helpless, you are my brother, my religious brother.'
She should have taken God's name and held their hands and feet...then the misconduct wouldn't have happened."
He also went on to say, "Galti ek taraf se nahi hoti hai (mistake is not committed from one side)." The girl was gangraped on the night of December 16 in a moving bus and died nearly a fortnight later at a Singapore hospital.
"The accused were drunk. If the girl had chanted hymns to Goddess Saraswati and to Guru Diksha then she wouldn't have entered the bus...," he added.
BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said Asaram is a religious guru and that the country looks upto him. "His statement is regrettable, deeply disturbing and painful," he said.
"For him to make the statement in relation to a crime which has shocked the conscience of the country is not only unfortunate but deeply regrettable," he added.
An aide to Asaram sought to downplay the controversy over the remarks. Neelam Dubey said the remarks were made at a religious discourse in Delhi in the context of how one should invoke God's name to avoid incidents like crimes against women. Some reports said the event was held in Rajasthan.
Dubey said Asaram was trying ta drive home the point that incidents like the gangrape of the girl could have been avoided by reciting mantras, by reciting names of Gods. "If she(victim) would have taken God's name or recited a mantra God inside her might have suggested her to how to avoid such crimes," she said, seeking to explain Asaram's remarks.
"He was giving that idea to his devotees. He was citing the gangrape incident to say one should use commonsense to avoid such incidents," she added.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said religious leaders should give serious thought before they speak out.
Writer Chetan Bhagat tweeted: "According to Asaram Bapu logic, there can be no underworld crimes in Mumbai. After all, here everybody calls them bhai."
Another Congress spokesperson, said "Such comments should be condemned as much as possible."
Slamming Asaram, National Commission for Women(NCW) Chief Mamata Sharma posed a question to him, asking how many times can the victim pray or plead with six "barbarians".
She also asked whether people under the influence of alcohol have consciousness.
Social activist and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi said Asaram's remarks reflected a clash of two generations on issues relating to women.
Asaram says new rape laws could be misused
Claiming that an "anti-men" campaign is being driven following the Delhi gangrape incident, spiritual guru Asaram Bapu on Monday cautioned that any new law on crime against women may be misused by vested interests.
"After the Delhi gangrape incident, an anti-men campaign appears to be on. Women should be respected but no new law should be framed which can be misused by vested interests....," he said addressing his followers in Bhankari village here on outskirts of Delhi.
He cited the anti-dowry Act and the SC/ST Act and claimed that they have also been misused.
Asaram clarifies, blames media for creating controversy
On the controversy over his remark on the Delhi gangrape victim, the guru said, "I only meant that had even one of the six accused taken 'diksha' (initiated into his teachings), the crime would not have occurred."
He blamed the television channels "who get funding from abroad" for creating controversy over his remarks.
"I am amused and I also pity them," Asaram said.
Protests held against Asaram's comments on Delhi gangrape
Nearly 100 activists of Bharatiya Samajik Sena, an organisation claiming to fight social evils, today protested here against self-styled godman Asaram Bapu's alleged remarks that the Delhi gangrape victim should have addressed the rapists as her "brother".
Condemning Asaram's comments, Bharatiya Samajik Sena president Sanjay Gadhvi said that "we demand that Asaram apologise to the women of the country and urge him to take back his words".
Holding banners and placards reading "Shame on Asaram, Shame on Asaram", protestors burnt his effigies in Jashodanagar area of the city and said they would continue to organise protests across the city and the state if he does not apologise for his comments.
Gadhvi also said they plan to throw black ink on the spiritual guru's posters and also protest at the venue of his programmes.
Another member of the organisation, Harshad Patel, said "when the entire country is with the victim, why is Asaram not speaking for her?"