Kathua Rape: Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the midnight candlelight vigil at India Gate
NEW DELHI: Congress president Rahul Gandhi was at the heart of the national capital at midnight to demand justice for the young girl gang-raped and killed in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua and the alleged rape of a teenager in Unnao. Sonia Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Vadra Gandhi joined the protests that are seen to be an effort to put the ruling BJP at the centre and the two states in a spot. The protest brought back memories of the spontaneous waves of protests that slammed India Gate after the Nirbhaya gang-rape five years ago and forced parliament to enact tougher rape laws.
Here are the 10 points on this story:
- "Wherever we see, woman and children are getting raped and murdered. We want the government to act. This is a national issue, not a political matter," Rahul Gandhi, who was stopped a few metres short of India Gate, told reporters.
- Mr Gandhi, 47, said the Beti Bachao (Save the girl child) slogan is good. "We are telling him (PM Modi) that he should get down to the job, implement it," the Congress president said in response to a question, a jab at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- Hundreds of people, predominantly Congress workers, had joined the march, responding to Mr Gandhi's call to join him for "a silent, peaceful, candlelight vigil" to protest violence against women and demand justice. It wasn't as silent as sister Priyanka Vadra Gandhi would have liked it to be. "Those who are here to push around people must go home," she told some people in the crowd.
- "Thousands of men and women stood up to be counted in the battle for justice and to protest the rising acts of violence against girls and women. I thank each and every one of you for your support. It shall not be in vain," Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
- Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad insisted the march was apolitical but did not hesitate to take a swipe at PM Modi too. "When the government sleeps, the country's watchman sleeps... the Congress has the responsibility to wake him up," Mr Azad said in response to a question on the idea behind the march. That swipe was a reference to PM Modi pitch in 2014 elections to make him the country's "chowkidar" (watchman), not PM.
- The Congress demanded action against the men accused of raping eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua and the teenage girl from Uttar Pradesh's Unnao whose father died trying to get her justice.
- But it was the chilling details of the girl's torture outlined by the police in court that the outrage peaked. The girl was kidnapped on January 10 by a group of men to drive out her Muslim Bakerwal community from a village in Kathua. She was kept sedated and gang-raped repeatedly for days by a group that included police officers. When the police made arrests, a local Hindu group supported by politicians insisted they were being framed due to politics.
- Celebrities took the lead, tweeting their horror at the pain that the eight-year-old must have undergone. "Imagine what goes through the mind of an 8 yr old as she is drugged, held captive, gang raped over days and then murdered. If you don't feel her terror, you are not human," said actor-director Farhan Akhtar. If one doesn't demand justice for the girl, they belong to nothing, the actor added. Many others joined him.
- The Congress president, who broke his silence on the 8-year-old's death after being called out on social media, wondered how anyone could "protect the culprits of such evil?" It is a crime against humanity. It cannot go unpunished, he added.
- Union Minister VK Singh is the only senior BJP leader to have roundly condemned rape and murder of the 8-year-old. We have failed the girl as humans, he said. "But she will not be denied justice," the junior foreign minister tweeted. Many other ministers and BJP leaders evaded comments on the Kathua case.
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