Newly elected Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding respect for women a day after Union cabinet minister Pralhad Joshi defended the release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano rape case.
Taking to Twitter, Kharge also mentioned some Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders reportedly attending a virtual ‘Satsang’ organised by rape convict Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is out from prison on a 40-day parole.
Also Read | Bilkis case convict was booked for ‘outraging woman’s modesty’ while on parole
The Congress chief wrote Modi said, “respect for women is an important pillar for India’s growth” but asked if the recent developments pertaining to Joshi and the BJP leaders justified his statement.
“Is this the respect for women that PM was preaching?” Kharge wrote on Twitter.
Opposition leaders have demanded the BJP’s justification over its leaders’ participation in the ‘Satsang’. They have also alleged that Ram Rahim was granted parole owing to the upcoming bypolls in Adampur, Haryana. In reply, Haryana home minister Anil Vij, however, quashed the allegations and said the parole has got nothing to do with the elections.
Ram Rahim has been incarcerated since 2017 in Haryana’s Sunaria jail where he is serving a 20-year jail term for raping two women disciples at his ashram’s headquarters in Sirsa.
Meanwhile, Joshi on Wednesday defended the release of the Bilkis Bano rape convicts, saying the decision was made “accordingly, as per law”, in response to the Gujarat government informing the Supreme Court that the move was made following a nod from the Union home ministry.
Bano was 21 and five-month pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the riots that had broken out after the Godhra train burning incident in Gujarat. Her seven family members, including three-year-old daughter, were killed. The 11 rape convicts walked out of jail on August 15 after the BJP-led Gujarat government permitted their release under its remission policy.
Visuals of the convicts being garlanded and fed sweets after coming out of jail had surfaced on the internet, inviting sharp criticism from the opposition leaders.
The Supreme Court on November 29 will hear petitions challenging the Gujarat government’s decision to release the rape convicts, on November 29.
(With inputs from agencies)