"I want to tell this girl and all other girls that if you see already three men sitting in the auto, they you should not board it. I am saying this to protect girls," Kirron Kher said on Wednesday in a statement that critics saw as unsolicited advice to a rape survivor.
"We all have to be alert about such things. I am saddened by what has happened with the woman," Kirron Kher told reporters.
Following outrage over her statement, the MP today said she never intended to blame or shame the 21-year-old woman. "I just said we are living in bad times. We all, especially ladies, have to take precautions. As a mother, I am saying this that we need to take care," she said.
"If the Congress wants to make an issue out of it, I cannot help," Kirron Kher added.
Congress leader Pawan Kumar Bansal ripped into the BJP parliamentarian, saying: "I am amazed how she gave such a statement...it seems like a light take on a serious matter. Instead, she should say how she is going to make Chandigarh a safer place for women."
The woman was allegedly gang-raped on November 17 after she took a shared auto-rickshaw to take her to her home in Mohali near Chandigarh. There were two men, apart from the driver, in the vehicle.
The woman, who is from Dehradun in Uttarakhand, was heading to her Paying Guest accommodation after her stenography class. She has told the police that the driver took the auto to the gas station for a CNG refuel and then took a strange turn. He allegedly stopped the auto and said it had broken down.
When the woman got out of the auto to take another one, the three men allegedly dragged her into the bushes and raped her.
The police tracked down the driver, Mohammed Irfan, and his associates Garib and Poppu from security footage at the gas station. They were arrested a week after the assault.
Earlier this week, Irfan allegedly tried to commit suicide in police custody by stabbing himself with a glass that he broke in the prison cell.