AN Indian Cabinet minister said in a startlingly graphic admission this week that she had rapists tortured until they begged for their lives during her time as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh state over a decade ago.
Uma Bharti, who is water resources minister and a senior leader in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also said she allowed a rape survivor to watch the torture so she could get some “peace”.
According to Times of India, Bharti made the claim while campaigning for a politician in Agra in Uttar Pradesh state.
She said, in reference to the recent rape of a woman and her daughter by robbers, “The rapists should be hung upside down and beaten till their skin comes off. Salt and chili should be rubbed on their wounds, so that they scream for their lives. That is what I had got done when I was chief minister.”
Bharti was CM from 2003 to 2004.
TOI also quoted her revealing that she dismissed police objections to her treatment of the rapists.
“I told him (police) people who behave like ‘danav’ (demons) have no human rights. Their heads should be cut off like Ravana’s.”
Ravana is a demon king, according to Hindu mythology.
An Indian Express report, however, said senior officials in Bharti’s administration said they could not remember any such incident.
S. K. Das, who served for eight months as Madha Pradesh police director-general during Bharti’s tenure as CM, pointed out that he would have sacked any police officer who dared to perform such torture.
“Forget about actually doing it, one can’t even think of doing something like this. If a police officer had done it, I would have either terminated or suspended him. Our duty is to protect law and order, not to engage in illegal acts like these,” he was quoted as saying.
“When even a thappad (slap) can invite a charge under Section 323 (punishment for voluntary causing hurt), why talk of torture.
“She is a politician and free to speak,” he said, referring to Bharti.
Bharti is known for making controversial remarks and her hardline stance on rape crimes. She is also described by local media as an ascetic.
Last year during clashes between India and Pakistan over an attack on an Indian army base and the killing of soldiers, Bharti, in defence of India’s retaliatory surgical strikes against its neighbor, said: “Those who seek evidence about surgical strikes should go to Pakistan”.
True on untrue, Bharti’s torture revelations will likely resonate with some in India, a country where rape and other crimes against women are often described as commonplace.
New Delhi, described as India’s rape capital, registered a staggering 140 cases of rape and 238 cases of molestation in January this year alone, according to a recent Hindustan Times report.
Of these, 43 and 133 cases respectively remain unsolved. The report also said in 2016, a total 2,155 cases of rape were registered with Delhi police, 291 of which were unsolved, while 4,165 molestation cases were recorded with 1,132 unsolved.
Also in January, India’s human rights watchdog claimed after concluding an investigation into reports that police attacked several villages in insurgency-prone Chhattisgarh state that 16 tribal women were raped by the enforcers.