Addressing reporters in Hisar yesterday, Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) member Dharamvir Goyat said: "90 per cent of the girls willingly go and then they meet people with criminal designs and the girl is not even aware that there are five to seven other men waiting for her. So, 90 per cent of these girls go willingly and then they encounter criminals."
Goyat's remark comes at a time when the ruling party is facing a lot of flak for its failure to provide protection to women. It is worth noting that altogether 17 rape cases have been filed at different police stations in Haryana over the last one month.
Mostly women from the backward sections have fallen prey to the lust of their neighbours and fellow villagers. In some of the cases, the victim's relatives are alleged to be the culprits.
In a bid to deflect some of the public anger away from the state government, Congress president Sonia Gandhi went to Jind on Oct 9 to meet the family of a teenaged Dalit girl who had ended her life following gangrape.
Congressmen were hoping that their party chief's well-publicised visit will ease the pressure on Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his cabinet. However, they are now in the unenviable position of somehow defending Dharamvir Goyat's insensitiveness.
Not only did BJP and CPI-M leaders sharply criticise his crass comment, the National Commission for Women (NCW) also asked him to desist from "making tardy assessments of such a heinous crime."
Stressing that Goyat must "respect women", NCW chairperson Mamata Sharma rued: "Rape is a reproach on Haryana. Rather than suggesting measures to control and set his government's house in order, he is inciting more such cases."
Earlier this week, Indian National Lok Dal chief Om Parkash Chautala had drawn considerable flak for supporting the bizarre suggestion made by a Khap panchayat in Rohtak.
Girls should be married off as soon as they attain the age of 16 to prevent men from outraging their modesty, the panchayat stressed. Chautala seemed to agree with their view.
Citing a practice that was prevalent in the Mughal era, he observed that "people would marry girls early during those days to prevent cases of rapes."