As if the gaffes of the Indian government in the initial days after mass protests began in Delhi and discussion of women's rights and gender equality was going strong, religious 'leaders' inserted their comments with pseudo-political backing in recent weeks.
Chief among them is Asaram Bapu, a self-appointed spiritual guru. On January 8, the Times of India reported that in a speech to his followers Bapu claimed that if Pandey had recited a certain prayer, she would not have stepped on that bus and suffered the same fate. This is the kind of comment even devout Hindus I have spoken to think is asinine at best, dangerous at worst to blind faith followers of his.
Form Huffington Post:
Fancying himself a victim of public outrage and vandalism to his property, Bapu now claims he was misquoted, going so far as to offer a substantial reward to any who can prove he was blaming the victim. So, where's my reward?!
Ashok Singhal, a leader in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) threw his support behind Bapu. The VHP, in my view is akin to a more political version of a religious 'party,' replete with lobbying efforts in Parliament and initiating protests and conflicts for Hindu rights. In true paranoid religious leader fashion, Singhal claims that any attack on Bapu's comments is an attack on Hinduism, going on to say "foreign powers have been pumping a lot of money into the country to damage Hinduism." He does not represent the majority.
December 16th is proving to be the first domino in a long line of dormant issues needing discussion.