Zee Media Bureau
Lucknow: In a highly insensitive and controversial statement at the time when security of women is a major issue, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Thursday said that it was wrong to give capital punishment to rapists.
Speaking at a rally in Moradabad, Yadav referred to the Shakti Mills rape cases in Mumbai where death penalty was awarded to three rape accused and defended those who commit such heinous crimes, saying boys err at times.
Questioning the death sentence to the three men, Yadav asked, "Should rape cases be punished with hanging?
We will bring changes in law when we come to power, he further added.
"Ladkon se aisi galtiyan ho jaati hain to iska ye matlab nahin ki phaansi de di jaye (Boys do make such mistakes but that does not mean that they should be sent to the gallows)," he told the gathering.
"Death penalty for rape is unfair...will change rape laws when we come to power," Mulayam Singh said.
"If boys and girls have difference, and the girl goes and gives a statement that I have been raped, then the poor fellows are punished."
"Two or three have been given the death sentence in Mumbai. We will change such laws when we come to power ... we will also ensure punishment of those who report false cases," said the leader whose party is in power in Uttar Pradesh.
Soon after the statement, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) flayed Mulayam Singh for his "insensitive and shameful" statement.
Vijay Bahadur Pathak, state spokesman of the BJP, said the former chief minister`s comments were unacceptable and very sad.
Pathak said the statement of the SP supremo comes as a shock as he was very critical of rape cases during the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party regime in the state.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said the comment smacked of Yadav playing "minority politics" in the backdrop of recent Muzaffarnagar riots in which many women were allegedly raped.
"Mulayam Singh Yadav must have thought of playing minority politics in Nirbhaya case also," he said.
Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza told reporters in Delhi: "It is unfortunate that any leader makes such a statement regarding a crime like rape. Such statements encourage persons involved in such crimes".
Social activist Kiran Bedi said, "These statements call for total boycott of such a political leader. People should be asked to vote out such people completely."
"This statement is against the society and it is spreading lawlessness," she said.
Another activist Ranjana Kumari demanded Yadav`s arrest in the light of these remarks.
She said the EC should take cognisance of it and an FIR must be lodged against him for making such a statement as "calling rape a small mistake is directly encouraging rape."
Former Chairman of National Commission for Women Poornima Advani said, "Public apology is the least. The Election Commission should take up this matter. This is a negative and useless election stunt which is going to hit him hard. And, I am sure he will be voted out."
Yadav`s statement comes at a time when people across the country are casting their ballots to choose next government of the country.
Indian women form 49% of the electorate. Safety is among the main issue besides corruption and price rise on the minds of women across the country.
The incident of gang-rape of a paramedic student in a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012 had pushed the Centre as well as Delhi Government to announce a series of measures to enhance security of women.
(With Agency inputs)