Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat on Friday lashed out at Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat for his remark that rapes are rare in 'Bharat' (rural India) but occur frequently in 'India', saying this reflects the mentality, which refuses to accept the reality of caste oppression or class driven exploitation of women.
"I have read that statement and it seems to me that Bhagwatji does not know either India or Bharat. And, if he had even cared to just look at the government statistics, he would know that the largest number of rapes actually occur in rural India, on Adivasi and Dalit women, on agriculture women workers, on rural women workers where there is neither any justice nor any access to justice," said Karat.
"And a statement like Bhagwat has made only gives strength to the criminals. I think this reflects the mentality, which refuses to accept the reality of caste oppression or class driven exploitation of women," she added.
The RSS has, however, defended its chief, and said that his remarks were misinterpreted.
"The statement of 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," RSS spokesperson Ram 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 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 criticised '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.
"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, the new legislations, Indian ethos and attitude towards women should be revisited in the context of ancient Indian values," he added.
The RSS chief, however, said that he wanted stringent laws in sexual crimes against women and will favour capital punishment for those convicted of rape.