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Indian guru says victim 'as guilty as her rapists'

Published: 9:53AM Tuesday January 08, 2013 Source: ONE News

A self-described "spiritual guru" has sparked outrage in India after saying that the rape victim who died after being assaulted by six men was partly responsible for her own attack.

Asaram Bapu said that the victim, whose fate has drawn the sympathy of the world and been treated as a national tragedy within India, was "as guilty as her rapists".

He added that she should have been more friendly to her attackers if she wanted to preserve her own life, Britain's The Daily Mail reported.

Politicians and web users have reacted with fury to the 71-year-old guru's comments, the newspaper said.

Bapu's controversial intervention in the case came on the day five of the woman's six alleged attackers appeared in court to face charges of murder, rape and abduction.

A judge ordered that the courtroom should be closed to the public after more than 150 people tried to cram in to a room designed for around 30 during the suspects' initial hearing.

"Only five to six people are not the culprits," Bapu was quoted as saying. "The victim is as guilty as her rapists.

"She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop."

He added: "This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don't think so."

Leading political figures were quick to condemn the inflammatory comments, which one opposition politician called "regrettable, deeply disturbing and painful".

Sandeep Dikshit, from the ruling Congress party, said, "Such comments should be condemned as much as possible," while his colleague Rashid Alvi added that religious figures should "give serious thought" before commenting on public affairs.

The guru reportedly even sparked a protest by a social activism group, who gathered in Ahmedabad waving signs saying "Shame on Asaram" and burning effigies of him.

A spokesman for the leader denied that he had been insensitive about the woman's death, but added: "If she would have taken God's name or recited a mantra God inside her might have suggested her to how to avoid such crimes."

The guru abandoned his family as a young man to live in an ashram and practice meditation, before starting up his own his own ashram in Ahmedabad, The Daily Mail reported.

This is not the first time he has run into controversy, it said.

Bapu is currently involved in an investigation into the deaths of two young boys in the grounds of one of his ashram, which the boys' parents blamed on the guru himself.

He was also accused of attempted murder in 2009 after a former devotee was shot at, allegedly by hitmen hired by the leader.

And in September, the self-declared "godman" was accused of slapping a cameraman who he believed was filming a religious gathering incorrectly.

The rape victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, died in a Singapore hospital two weeks after being gang-raped and beaten on a moving bus in New Delhi, then thrown bleeding onto the street.

Protests followed, along with a fierce public debate over police failure to stem rampant violence against women in India.