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RSS chief stirs row, blames 'westernization' for rapes

 NEW DELHI, Jan 4 (IANS): RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat Friday stirred a controversy with his remark that westernization in Indian cities was the reason behind increasing rape cases as the country is witnessing widespread protests over the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old Delhi woman last month.

Bhagwat, addressing a gathering of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers in Assam's Silchar, said: "Such crimes (rapes) hardly take place in 'Bharat', but they occur frequently in 'India'."

"You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang rape or sex crimes. They are prevalent in some urban belts. Besides new legislations, Indian ethos and attitude towards women should be revisited in the context of ancient Indian values," Bhagwat said.

Following the RSS chief's remark, Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh Friday said there is no basis for making distinction between India and Bharat.

"There is no basis for making distinction between India and Bharat," Singh said when asked to comment on Bhagwat's remark.

Singh was speaking on the sidelines of a function 'Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System' here.

The RSS chief's controversial remark comes days after the Dec 29 death of the young Delhi woman due to grievous injuries during her torture by the rapists on board a moving bus Dec 16.

The incident has led to loud protests in Delhi and elsewhere and demand for justice for the woman, stringent anti-rape laws and more security.

Criticising Bhagwat's comment, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat said, "He does not know India or Bharat and the largest number of rapes occur in rural areas".

"The Dalits and Adivasis are the ones who mostly get raped," she told newspersons.

Karat said the cases are reported by the media, and the RSS chief's comment is a "reflection of his mentality" of "turning his face away from reality".

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said the comment of Bhagwat "was a reflection of their mentality. Rapes can happen anywhere. Rapes should be stopped and the strictest punishment should be meted out to the perpetrators."

Digvijaya Singh was also of the opinion that the right to appeal of rape convicts should be restricted. "They should get only one right to appeal," he said.

He also said the age limit for juvenile delinquency should be lowered. "Nowadays children are more aware, they have access to TV, internet,.. so much that children of 12-14 understand all facts."

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said Bhagwat's comments "should be put in perspective... He was referring to India's sanskar and tradition and respect for women".

"He has asked for the strictest punishment for those committing crimes against women and even advocated the death sentence...Woman empowerment and woman security forms the core of RSS philosophy," said BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad.

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