Hitting out at the Uttar Pradesh government for its handling of the alleged rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman from Hathras and for "forceful cremation" of her body without her family's consent, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today accused the BJP of using the Dalit community for votes and then torturing them.
Hours after tweeting about the "barbaric and shameful incident" that has triggered outrage across the country, Ms Banerjee - preparing to fight next year's state Assembly elections with BJP as the main opponent - also attacked the party, although not by name.
"During elections, they will go to a Dalit house, get food from outside, eat it and claim we have eaten at a Dalit home. After elections, they will torture Dalits, thrash them," she said at a public event at Jalpaiguri in north Bengal.
Ms Banerjee even invoked Goddess Sita, the wife of Lord Ram, in her outburst against the Yogi Adityanath government and the state police. "Sita Mai had to give agnipariksha (trial by fire) once. Today, in Uttar Pradesh, not only is there rape, the victim is burnt," she said.
"If there is a crime, police should take action immediately. We have taken action in 72 hours. In Uttar Pradesh, not only is there rape, the victim is burnt; no action is taken. What kind of governance is this?" Ms Banerjee questioned, alleging that some leaders reportedly even said the victim and her mother should have been burnt on the same pyre.
Earlier in the day, Ms Banerjee had tweeted saying, "I have no words to condemn the barbaric and shameful incident at Hathras involving a young Dalit girl. My deepest condolences to the family. More shameful is the forceful cremation, exposing those who use slogans and lofty promises for votes."
A 20-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped by four men - all of whom are from a so-called upper caste - in Hathras on September 14. She was referred to the Safdarjung hospital in Delhi with spinal cord injuries, paralysis and cuts in her tongue. She died on Tuesday.
The Uttar Pradesh Police has faced spiraling criticism for over alleged delays in filing a rape case, arresting the accused and cremating the Hathras woman near her village in the dead of night against her family's wishes, with her parents and brothers locked in their home.