Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav addressing an election rally in Moradabad on Thursday
"Boys are boys, they make mistakes" - Uttar Pradesh politician Mulayam Singh Yadav's
view that three men convicted of gang-raping two women in Mumbai were 'poor fellows' who did not deserve the death sentence, has sparked outrage.
"Boys and girls... they had differences, and the girl goes and gives a statement that I have been raped. And then the poor fellows, three of them are sentenced to death in Mumbai. Should rape cases lead to hanging? Boys are boys, they make mistakes. We will try and change such laws...we will also ensure punishment for false cases," Mulayam Singh said on Thursday while campaigning for the national election in Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, the state his Samajwadi Party has governed since 2012. (Watch video)
The three men were handed the death sentence last week under a new law that punishes repeat rapists; they were found guilty of gang-raping a photo-journalist and a telephone operator, at different times at the abandoned Shakti Mills in the heart of Mumbai. (Shakti Mills gang-rapes: 3 convicts sentenced to death for repeat offence)
The BJP has accused him of appealing to a support base of hooligans. ('Comments show his regressive mindset': reactions to Mulayam's shocker on rape)
Union minister Salman Khurshid of the Congress said, "An apology does not take away the damage that has been done to someone's life and the person who has committed the 'mistake' should at least repent, and how genuine the guilt is, is not easy to examine."
The Samajwadi Party is unapologetic about the comments. "Death penalty is debatable, every country is banning it why shouldn't we?" said the party's Naresh Aggarwal. (India Votes 2014: Full coverage)
Mulayam Singh has promised in his party's manifesto for the polls to check "the large-scale misuse" of tougher anti-rape laws enacted after the fatal gang-rape of a young student on a moving bus in Delhi in December, 2012.
Her parents are shocked at the veteran politician's words. "We appeal to people not to let such people come into power," said her mother. "He is encouraging criminals by making such statements and driving youth towards crime."