While police are yet to make an arrest in the Mysuru gangrape of a 23-year-old two days after the incident, Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra stirred a controversy Thursday by suggesting that the woman and her friend should have been more careful.
He told reporters: “Around 7-7:30 pm they went there. It is a deserted place, they should not have gone, but we can’t stop anyone from going, they went. It is a deserted place and no one usually goes there.” Attacking the Congress for raising questions over the law and order in the state, Jnanendra also said the Opposition was “raping” him.
As his remarks led to a furore, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who is in Delhi, said he did not approve of the same. Towards the evening, Jnanendra apologised and said he was withdrawing his remarks.
Police investigating the gangrape said the victim and her friend had said the accused had made videos of the incident and threatened to release them if the couple approached the authorities. While one person has reportedly been detained, no arrest has been made so far.
The woman, an MBA student from outside Karnataka, was sexually assaulted by four-five men Tuesday night in a secluded area near the Chamundi Hills in Mysuru. Her friend was beaten up. Both are hospitalised. While the woman’s injuries were severe and she remains in shock, she is improving, officials said.
A senior police officer said the accused first demanded money from the couple, before dragging away the woman and raping her, and beating up the man. They also took away their mobile phones. Police believe the accused might have been locals from Mysuru, and are scouring cellphone data in the area from the time of the assault. They are also questioning owners of liquor stores nearby as bottles and cans of liquor were recovered from the site of the crime.
The area is frequented by local youths to consume liquor, and several incidents of robbery have been reported from there. Sources said a witness saw four motorcycles near the spot Tuesday night.
On Thursday, Additional DGP Pratap Reddy visited the spot with other officers. Incidentally, Reddy was the supervising officer in the investigation into a case of sexual assault on a medical student of Manipal University in June 2013, where cellphone data had led police to the accused.
“We are yet to obtain a statement from the woman. We want to do it with her consent once she recovers. We are probing various angles based on the FIR that has been registered,” Reddy said.
Bommai said he had spoken to Reddy and other officers and told them to report to him directly. “Based on the information gathered and on the basis of the tower dump and call data records, investigations are proceeding,” he said.
At his interaction with the media earlier in the day, Jnanendra admitted there were concerns about lack of police patrolling in areas such as where the gangrape took place. “Rape has happened there (in Mysuru), but the Congress is trying to rape me, they are trying to rape the Home Minister,” he said.
Expressing shock over Jnanendra’s statements, state Congress chief D K Shivakumar said: “Home Minister, you have the onus of protecting the state, are you not ashamed of making such a shabby remark?… With this statement he has agreed that it is dangerous to venture out even at 7:30 pm under BJP rule.”
Shivakumar said: “He has claimed that Congress is raping him, he is using the word rape very lightly… it seems he likes that word. I seek the response of BJP leaders on this statement.”
Bommai said he had asked Jnanendra to clarify his remarks. “I don’t agree with the statement. My government views these issues very seriously,” he said.
Soon after, Jnanendra held a press conference to say he had no intention to hurt anybody even as he criticised Congress leaders for seeking his resignation over the gangrape.