In fresh embarrassment for ruling Congress in Haryana, which is already on the backfoot over growing incidents of rape, a state leader has now sparked outrage by claiming that 90 per cent of the cases involved "consensual sex".
"Ninety per cent of rape cases are (a case of) consensual sex between the girl and boy.... The girl gets into an affair with a boy and she goes with him without knowing that he is of criminal mindset," Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee member and Congress Hisar district spokesman Dharambir Goyat told reporters in Hisar last night.
"It's not the state government which is responsible for rapes. Infact in most of the cases it is consensual sex," he added.
The statement led to an outcry with BJP terming it "shameful", especially as it was coming from a Congress leader after party chief Sonia Gandhi herself met the victims, and CPI(M) slamming the Congress for its "hypocrisy" and giving licence to its leaders to "defend the indefensible".
Distancing itself from the comment, an embarrassed state unit of Congress issued a notice to Mr. Goyat asking why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for his comments, party sources said, adding he has been asked to reply within 15 days.
Mr. Goyat too got into a damage control mode saying his remarks were "twisted and misinterpreted" and he had not spoken on behalf of the party and but only expressed his personal views.
Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said "Congress does not hold the view expressed by Goyat. It is his view."
"It shows utter hypocrisy of the Congress and the Haryana government. On one hand Congress President Sonia Gandhi visits the home of a Dalit girl to express solidarity, while on the other hand party has given license to leaders to defend the indefensible act on young women in Haryana," CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said.
BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi accused the Congress of rubbing salt into the wounds of the victims and wondered how the Congress leaders could make such comments when Ms. Gandhi has herself met the affected families.
The opposition parties also slammed the Congress for its silence on the suggestion by influential khap panchayats in Haryana that the girls should be married off by 16 years of age to prevent such crimes against them.
Meanwhile, adding to the string of rape case, a six-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by two youths at Laxman Vihar in Gurgaon, the 17th such incident within a month in the state.