Chandigarh: Amid outrage over a string of rape cases in Haryana, Khap panchyats in the state have come out with a bizarre suggestion that the marriageable age limit should be done away with claiming it will check such crimes while the ruling Congress saw a "conspiracy" in the incidents.
Concerned over teenaged girls being targeted, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on Sunaday stepped in seeking explanation from the state government in each case, including action taken against culprits.
"Boys and girls should be married by the time they turn 16 year old, so that they do not stray... This will decrease the incidents of rape," Sube Singh, a Khap representative, said.
Another Khap member said, "As soon as the children attain puberty, it is natural for them to have sexual desires but when these are not fulfilled, they stray... So there should not be any minimum age limit for marriage."
The comments from members of the influential caste councils came a day after a teenaged Dalit girl immolated herself after being raped in Narwana area in Jind district, the 12th incident of rape in Haryana within a month.
Four persons, including a woman, have been arrested in connection with the incidents. The main accused Pradeep and Naveen were arrested this morning.
Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the culprits will not be spared and Education Minister Geeta Bhukkal asked social organisations and Khap panchayats to come forward to give a befitting reply to those who commit atrocities against women.
Lashing out at the Hooda government, Haryana`s main opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) claimed the incidents reflected its failure on the law and order front.
Dismissing the charge, state Congress president Phool Chand Mullana claimed that it wass a conspiracy to malign the government.
"Such incidents happened earlier also, we condemn them ...But no accused has been protected and all the culprits have been extended... I can say that this could be a conspiracy against the state government," he said.
"Who can tell where the next incident will take place, but wherever it has taken place, authorities have taken prompt action, so where is the question of law and order failure," the Congress leader said.
DGP Ranjiv Dalal has denied that there has been an increase in such cases and criticised the media for presenting such a picture.
The NCPCR, meanwhile, said the recent incidents with regard to women in Haryana have emphasised the need to focus on several issues, including the skewed sex ratio in the northern state.
"Ten girls have been raped so far. There have been molestation charges. Our Commission will ask them what has been done in each case. Have all of the accused been arrested? What proceedings have been done?" NCPCR chairperson Shanta Sinha said.
"We feel that in Haryana, it is not the sole issue which is coming to limelight. You have seen the sex ratio as well. There has been only 830/1000 girls," she said.
Sinha also stressed the need for a public awareness campaign in favour of girl children.
"There should also be a fear amongst the ones who indulge in such activities. They should be punished so that the girls are safe," she said.
The INLD said it will submit a memorandum to the State Governor in Chandigarh on October 10 demanding dismissal of the Hooda government.
The rape incidents "are an indicator of how bad the state`s law and order situation is under the Congress rule" and its women activists will hold protest demonstrations across district headquarters on October 10, the party said in a statement.