Indian guru blames Delhi rape victim

A popular Indian spiritual guru sparked a backlash after saying a 23-year-old student could have averted a murderous gang-rape by begging for mercy from her attackers.

Self-styled godman Asharam, known to his followers as "Bapu" or father, told his devotees that blame for the assault on a moving bus in New Delhi on December 16 should not just rest with her attackers.

"This tragedy would not have happened if she had chanted God's name and fallen at the feet of the attackers. The error was not committed by just one side," he said in video footage which has been widely circulated on the Internet.

The 71-year-old's remarks -- the latest in a series of gaffes by public figures blaming women for the country's rape epidemic -- drew a chorus of condemnation.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, spokesman for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the statement was "deeply disturbing and painful".

"For him to make the statement in relation to a crime which has shocked the conscience of the country is not only unfortunate but deeply regrettable," he told reporters.

The Hindu newspaper said it was "a disgrace when a man of religion stoops so low".

"Asharam deserves to be condemned in the strongest words," the daily added in an editorial.

The editorial also criticised politicians from the ruling Congress party as well as the BJP for their sexist commentary on the Delhi rape and the need for Indian women to stay home and make traditional choices.

"Their notions of... an ideal society appear rooted in the very prejudices that have engendered a culture of violence against women, the Delhi incident being its most recent and horrific manifestation," the newspaper said.

Abhijit Mukherjee, the son of India's president who is a Congress lawmaker, landed himself in hot water last month after comparing women who took part in protests over the gang-rape to patched up second-hand cars.

Five men have been charged with rape and murder in the December 16 attack on the young student. A sixth accused, who is 17, is to be tried in a separate court for juveniles.

  • COMMENT: Xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore once more 3 hours ago
    COMMENT: Xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore once more

    Kirsten Han is a Singaporean blogger, journalist and filmmaker. She is also involved in the We Believe in Second Chances campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty. A social media junkie, she tweets at @kixes. The views expressed are … Continue reading →

  • Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future 5 hours ago
    Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future

    It’s more than just its inherent speed, or the whooshing noise that fills the cabin like a school choir jamming with James Hetfield. It’s what it represents in an industry full of skeptics. It’s a portal into the future – a time capsule left by some mad scientist born decades too soon. It’s something that shouldn’t exist. And yet it does.

  • 919 reasons to love: Flickr photo of the day 7 hours ago
    919 reasons to love: Flickr photo of the day

    We've brought you the drive video of the $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder -- an 887-hp hybrid supercar with two electric motors working in harmony with a big 4.6-liter V-8. But how about this? Porsche's hybrid Le Mans racer -- the 919 Hybrid, sent to us by Kevin Leech. Get on board with electrification, folks. Because it's taking over the world.

  • Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers
    Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers

    Singaporeans on social media reacted angrily to news that tissue sellers at hawker centres and street corners are being required to pay for an annual licence.

  • Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry
    Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry

    Heart-wrenching messages of fear, love and despair, sent by high school students from a sinking South Korean ferry, added extra emotional weight Thursday to a tragedy that has stunned the nation. Nearly 300 people -- most of them students on a high school trip to a holiday island -- are still missing after the ferry capsized and sank on Wednesday morning. Mom, I love you," student Shin Young-Jin said in a text to his mother that was widely circulated in the South Korean media.

  • Indonesia’s armed forces chief says “no apology” for warship’s name
    Indonesia’s armed forces chief says “no apology” for warship’s name

    General Moeldoko, the head of Indonesia’s Armed Forces, has clarified that he had not apologised for the naming of a warship after two Indonesian marines who had been involved in the 1965 MacDonald House bombing in Singapore.