New Delhi: Leading a midnight march against the Unnao and Kathua rape cases, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the women of the country are afraid to go out today and Prime Minister Narendra Modi must start the job of “Beti Bachao" (save the girl child).
“We are here against crimes being committed against women, against rapes, violence and murder and the government must act on this. This is a national issue and not a political one," Gandhi said at the march towards the India Gate in New Delhi.
“This is about our women. Thousands are present here including the common people and people from all parties. This situation in the country is such today that one after another incident of murder, rape and violence is taking place. We are standing here against that and we want the government to act," he said.
Amid slogans being raised against the government at the midnight march, Gandhi said the women of the country are afraid to go out today and the government must ensure their safety and help them live in peace. On the Modi government’s “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" initiative, Gandhi said it was the right slogan and the Prime Minister must start work on “Beti Bachao".
Gandhi started the midnight march near the Man Singh Road at 11.55pm. Delhi police has barricaded all the routes leading to India Gate. He was joined by his sister Priyanka Gandhi and her husband Robert Vadra, and scores of Congress leaders, party workers and students, who shouted slogans against the Narendra Modi government and the BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. They demanded urgent action against the perpetrators of two gangrapes—one in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, and the other in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir.
Several Congress leaders asked the people in the candlelight march to observe a “silent" protest. Some people were seen having brought their children as well.
The Congress leaders present at the protest march to the India Gate included Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Salman Khurshid, Ashok Gehlot, Ajay Maken, Sushmita Dev, Haroon Yusuf, Randeep Surjewala and Ambika Soni. They targeted the Modi government’s “Beti Bachao" slogan, saying the daughters were not safe in the country.
“Atrocities are being committed against women in the country and the government is sleeping. The BJP is not only involved directly, it is also protesting in favour of the culprits and stopping law enforcement agencies from doing their job. It is a sad state of affairs," said Maken. Azad said the Modi government was sleeping at a time the daughters of the country are facing a threat to their lives.
Announcing the march, Gandhi had tweeted in the evening, “Like millions of Indians my heart hurts tonight. India simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does."
Earlier in the day, Gandhi had expressed anguish and shock on the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua, and attacked the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh for failing to act against its MLA, who is an accused in the Unnao rape case of a 17-year-old girl.
“How can anyone protect the culprits of such evil? What happened at #Kathua is a crime against humanity. It cannot go unpunished. What have we become if we allow politics to interfere with such unimaginable brutality perpetrated on an innocent child?" he tweeted.
The Kathua girl, who belonged to the nomadic Bakerwal Muslim community, had disappeared from a spot near her house on 10 January. A week later, her body was found in the same area. A special investigation team, formed to probe the incident, has arrested eight people, including two special police officers and a head constable, who was charged with destroying evidence.
The situation in Jammu has been tense since the Kathua rape and murder. The city’s bar association has opposed the action against the accused and alleged that minority Dogra community was being targeted.