As massive street protests rage in New Delhi, Indian authorities are preparing to try the men accused of brutally gang-raping 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh Pandey on a bus last month. She later died from her injuries, and the case has brought to light the growing problem of assaults against women in India. But some Indian leaders, in their attempts to explain the violence, are making a series of incredibly insensitive comments that seem to smear Pandey and other victims. "This is the mentality which most Indian men are suffering from unfortunately," said Ranjana Kumari, director for the New Delhi-based Centre for Social Research. "That is the mindset that has been perpetrating this crime because they justify it indirectly, you asked for it so it is your responsibility." Here, a sampling:
1. Self-described "spiritual guru" Asaram Bapu told his followers that "guilt is not one-sided." He went on to say that Pandey should have been friendly with her attackers if she wanted to save her life. "She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop … This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don't think so." A case has since been filed in local court against Bapu for insulting women and trying to "hurt to the sentiments of the people."
2. Manohar Lal Sharma, a lawyer representing the bus driver, the bus driver's brother, and another man on the bus said he has never seen a "respectable lady" raped in India. "Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect," he said. All three of Sarma's clients will plead not guilty to the charges against them.
3. Kailash Vijayvargiya, a Madhya Pradesh Cabinet minister, suggested that if women breach their moral limits, they are asking for trouble. "One has to abide by certain moral limits. If you cross this limit you will be punished," he said.
4. Botsa Satyanarayana, the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president, said Pandey shouldn't have been out so late. "Do we roam in streets at midnight as we got Independence at midnight? … She should have assessed the situation before getting into the bus."
5. Banwari Lal Singhal, a member of the legislative assembly in the state of Rajasthan, demanded girls be banned from wearing skirts in schools in order to protect their dignity. "It is not a Talibani type of thinking or restriction on girls' freedom or right," he reassured, "but a concern for their safety."
6. Abu Asim Azmi, state president of the Maharashtra Samajwadi Party, blames fashion and nudity. "I support death penalty for the Delhi rapists but there should also be a law that women should not wear less clothes and roam around with boys who are not their relatives."
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