The Congress on Saturday hit back at the BJP for comparing the party’s purported silence on the case of rape-murder in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur, with former party chief Rahul Gandhi stating that “unlike” the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, Congress governments in Rajasthan and Punjab are neither “denying” the case nor “blocking the course of justice”.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh hit out at the comparson drawn by Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Prakash Javadekar between the crimes in UP’s Hathras and Hoshiarpur, and called it “political puffery, with no substance or basis to support their criticism”.
Rahul tweeted, “Unlike in UP, the governments of Punjab and Rajasthan are NOT denying that the girl was raped, threatening her family and blocking the course of justice. If they do, I will go there to fight for justice.”
Sitharaman and Javadekar had earlier in the day questioned Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s “silence” on the Hoshiarpur case and asked about the “selective cry of outrage that the Congress wants to show when it is elsewhere but not in states governed by it”.
In a statement, Amarinder said the Hathras and Hoshiarpur cases have no comparison. “In Hathras case, the UP government and police did not only fail to initiate stern action but in fact was seemingly trying to cover up the matter to benefit the upper-caste accused. This was in sharp contrast to the prompt action taken by Punjab Police, who immediately arrested the accused and were now preparing to file the challan within a week.”
Amarinder said his party had been forced to speak up and protest in the Hathras case because the state had “failed” to get justice for the Dalit girl there. “Had the BJP government in UP responded as effectively and speedily as we did in Punjab, neither the Congress and the Gandhis, nor scores of NGOs, lawyers, human rights activists would have been forced to take to the streets to fight for the victim,” he added.
He stated: “The ‘selective politics and selective outrage’ charge, which Nirmala Sitharaman made against Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, was, in fact, completely apt for the BJP. No BJP leader had uttered a word in protest against the acts of omission and commission of the UP government and police in the Hathras case, when the entire nation was in angry uproar.”
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said: “Rahul went to (Hathras to) extend solidarity along with Priyanka. It was the UP government that tried to stop them. Here (in Punjab), we are not stopping anyone to go and meet the victim’s family. We are on the victim’s side ourselves. We are not unleashing atrocities on them, unlike the UP government did.”
In New Delhi, Congress women’s wing chief Sushmita Dev said: “There is a reason why many Opposition leaders felt that they should visit Hathras because UP Police refused to file an FIR with the Section of rape in Hathras. In Punjab, the state government not only immediately filed an FIR with POCSO and IPC Sections within 36 hours, the accused were arrested and the Chief Minister and the DGP are personally looking into the case.”
She claimed the UP government tried to “hush up” the case and the district administration of Hathras tried to threaten the victim’s family.
Jakhar said that they went to Hathras because Priyanka is the party in-charge of the area in UP. “Rahul went to extend solidarity along with Priyanka. It was the UP government that tried to stop them. Here (in Punjab), we are not stopping anyone to go and meet the victim’s family. We are on the victim’s side ourselves. We are not unleashing atrocities on them, unlike the UP government did,” he said.
Both leaders also hit out at the BJP’s “picnic tour” remark. While Amarinder said it reflects the “grossness of the BJP’s anti-Dalit and anti-woman mindset”, Jakhar said the remarks show their “pettiness and how they looked at both tragedies”.
Jakhar said, “The way we have apprehended the culprits and are expediting justice, we will set an example so that nobody dares repeat such crime in future. With their petty remarks, the BJP is trying to divert attention. The entire state of Punjab is agitating against the Centre, and they do not know how to handle it. They are stopping to these diversionary tactics.”
Amarinder pointed out that unlike the Hoshiarpur incident, the Hathras case, and the subsequent developments including the middle-of-the-night burning of the victim’s body, were a part of the chain of atrocities being committed against Dalits in UP under BJP. Independent data endorses that crimes against Dalits/SCs in UP are continuously rising, with nobody to offer succour to the victims, who are living under a blanket of fear, he said. Dalits are fleeing UP, while in Punjab, which accounts for the country’s largest SC population, they feel safe and cared for, he added.
Jakhar said the UP government tried to malign the Hathras victim’s family while the Punjab government stood behind the Hoshiarpur victim’s family. “They themselves earned this ridicule for unleashing atrocities against the family that found succour in Rahul and Priyanka’s visit.”
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