Lucknow, April 11: Mulayam Singh Yadav has accused the media of “twisting” his comments yesterday on rapes, which drew the Election Commission’s notice today and apparently kept many women away from his latest rally.
He said he had never defended any rape accused (read the Shakti Mills rapists) and claimed: “No party cares for women as much as the Samajwadi Party.”
Media reports from Moradabad had yesterday quoted the Samajwadi chief as saying that innocent men were being sentenced to hang in false rape cases and that rapes sometimes happen because “boys make mistakes”.
Today’s “clarification” came amid a storm of criticism from political opponents and women’s activists and an Election Commission directive seeking a CD of Mulayam’s speech.
“I never defended the rape accused. I said innocent people get framed in rape cases and punished. I raised the issue of the death sentence, which is the subject of a global debate,” Mulayam told a rally at Babrala in Sambhal constituency.
Yesterday, as he fulminated against the death penalty in “false” rapes cases, Mulayam had mentioned three “poor fellows” sentenced to hang.
Since the three repeat offenders in the double rape on Mumbai’s Shakti Mills compound are the only people ever sentenced to death in India solely for rape, Mulayam was taken to have been referring to them.
Few women attended today’s rally, a fact Mulayam acknowledged. “I don’t see many women here to hear me. This may be because the media twisted my statement.”
Mulayam said he wanted rapists punished severely but was against the death sentence. “Executions have been abolished in half the world. In the rest, a debate is raging on the subject of capital punishment. I want hangings to stop,” he said.
“Several people and organisations have supported my views and the Samajwadi Party has raised this issue at all-party meetings.”
State chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha said the poll panel would watch the CD of Mulayam’s Moradabad speech “before taking any action”.
Sources said the panel would judge whether the Samajwadi chief was trying to influence any segment of voters with his allegedly anti-women statement.