Despite the continuing national outrage over the brutal gang rape of the 23-year-old student in Delhi, a small minority on the fringe has said, in a case of blaming the victim, that women are also responsible for the sexual crimes against them. The latest to join their ranks is self-styled spiritual leader Asaram Bapu with his suggestion that the gang-rape victim should have prayed to god and begged with her attackers to let her go. Infuriated over the comments, social and women activists called for legal action and social boycott of Bapu. His comments, however, sparked quick criticism from several women’s organisations and religious leaders.

On Monday, speaking at an event in Tonk, about 90 km from the capital of Rajasthan, Bapu was quoted saying that the woman would not have suffered the fate had she taken `Guru Diksha’ and chanted the Saraswati Mantra.

A recording of the discourse on his official website had him saying: “Those who were at fault were drunk. Had she taken guru diksha and chanted the saraswati mantra, she would not have boarded any random bus after watching a movie with her boyfriend. Even if she did, she should have taken god’s name and asked for mercy. She should have called them brothers, fallen at their feet and pleaded for mercy. Had she said, I am a weak woman, you are my brothers”, such brutality would not have happened (Agar us kanya ne saraswati mantra liya hota, … toh boy friend ke saath picture dekh kar jis kisi bas mein ghusti nahin. Agar ghus bhi gayi.. toh 6 sharabi the.. Bhagwan ka naam leti aur ek ka haath pakadti “Tere ko toh mai maanti hoon. Galti ek taraf se nahi hoti).

While leaders of women’s organisations such as CPM’s Brinda Karat condemned the remarks with Ms. Karat calling them “bizarre and insensitive”, some religious leaders were also critical of Asaram Bapu.

Religious leaders upset

Karnataka Bureau reports

The strongest response came from Channamalla Veerabhadra Swamiji of Nidumamidi Math in Karnataka who described it as “the height of ignorance and idiocy.” He said: “The Delhi incident shows male cruelty and arrogance at its worst. Is there any point in the victim pleading for mercy?”

The seer said that while statements of Bapu could be ignored as “too absurd,” more dangerous were those from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who “has greater faith in Manuvada rather than Manavatavada [humanism].”

Vishwesha Tirtha Swamiji of Pejawar Math in Udupi on Monday said: “It is not right to compare or see both the victim and the rapists in equal terms. Can the robber and the robbed be ever seen equally? Here the matter is even more serious.”

Speaking to The Hindu, he said Bapu’s statement that the victim should have begged before the rapists and called them “brothers” was “illogical.” “When someone is about to be raped, the woman only thinks of her defence. Besides, what is the guarantee that the rapists would have left her even if she had requested them?” he asked.

In an email response to The Hindu, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living, said: “I do not agree with this [Asaram Bapu’s statements]. These hypotheses do not lead us anywhere. In fact, no sense or reason prevails when someone is drunk.”

In Coimbatore, Dayananda Saraswati of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and Jaggi Vasudev of Isha Foundation refused to comment on the issue.

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