The Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday defended Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat's remark that ''rapes occur frequently in India not in Bharat'', saying the present controversy is totally uncalled for and unnecessary.
BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav has already clarified Bhagwat's remark.
"The present controversy relating to certain comments of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwatji is totally uncalled for and unnecessary. Ram Madhav on behalf of the RSS has already explained it. The comment of Bhagwatji is required to be seen and understood in its entirety. He was referring to India's sanskar, tradition and value system where respect for women occupies a pride of place. At the same time, he also demanded that strong punishment be given to those who are offenders in relation to crime against women, laws be strengthened including giving capital punishment," said Prasad.
"Women empowerment, women respect and women security forms the core of the ideology of the RSS. The extraordinary work and achievement made in various RSS related organisations like Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra, Vidya Bharati and other allied organisations bares ample testimony to the same," he added.
Prasad further lashed out at Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh for targetting the RSS chief over his remark. The RSS is the ideological mentor of the BJP.
"There is a very outspoken spokesperson of the Congress, who is not the authorised spokesperson of the Congress as we are told, Digvijaya Singh. Digvijay Singh first look within," said Prasad.
Commenting on Bhagwat's remark, Digvijaya Singh earlier in the day said that it shows the ideology of the Sangh. "Women cannot become members of the RSS. There is no difference between India and Bharat," he added.
Prasad, who is the deputy leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, also used the occasion to take potshots at the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre and the Sheila Dikshit-led government in Delhi.
"There is a Congress woman chief minister of Delhi. The top leader of Congress, the president and the most powerful person behind this government Sonia Gandhiji, is also a woman. Yet in Delhi, controlled by the central government and the state government, women feel most unsafe. Please see that and respond to that. The nation today is dismayed, pained," said Prasad.
"We need to rise above petty political considerations and ensure that the polity responds in a collective voice. Therefore, the BJP has demanded an immediate special session of the Parliament also an all-party meeting and we are willing to cooperate with the government in firming up the law. That is what the nation expects. Let us not sidetrack the issue," he added.
RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav has defended Bhagwat, and said that his remarks were misinterpreted.
"The statement of the RSS chief should be taken in proper perspective. He (Bhagwat) has already demanded strict punishment for rapists and even called for death penalty if required," said Madhav.
"All that he said is that in Indian tradition we have great respect for women and we should learn to uphold this tradition. If one goes away from this tradition it will result in rise of crime against women," he added.
Several other social activists have also hit out at Bhagwat over his remark for it comes at a time when the nation is mourning the death of the 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim. There have been massive protests in the country demanding more safety for women and new tough anti-rape laws.
Addressing a citizens' meet in Silchar in Assam earlier on Tuesday, Bhagwat criticized ''western'' lifestyle of people in urban areas, and said without empirical evidence to back such a claim, that rape is prevalent mainly in cities where Indians are deeply influenced by western values and not by rural India.