New Delhi: Hours after a horrifying incident involving the murder of a man and the alleged gang-rape of four women of his family on a highway in Uttar Pradesh emerged, a minister controversially implied that it is impossible to ensure zero crime “in such a big state”.
Suresh Khanna, the Urban Development Minister in Yogi Adityanath’s government, assured tough action against those behind the family’s horror on the road to Bulandhshahr on Thursday morning. But his other comment that has raised eyebrows.
“Itna bada pradesh hai, humne zero crime ki baat kabhi nahi ki (it is such a big state, we never promised zero crime),” Mr Khanna said, confronting questions about the incident that marks the new BJP government’s first big challenge in maintaining law and order.
Mr Khanna continued, “But the government wants to punish criminals without exception. Any criminal, no matter how big, will face action under law.”
The 64-year-old is one of the senior most ministers in the state and was even counted among Chief Ministerial probables before the party picked the saffron-robed priest politician Yogi Adityanath.
The murder-gang-rape on the highway has revived questions about lawlessness and poor policing in Uttar Pradesh – a big issue in the recent state elections.
Late on Wednesday night, the family was travelling from Jewar in Greater Noida near Delhi to Bulandshahr with cash for a relative in hospital when around 1 am, their car stopped on the highway after hitting a metal object. When they came out of the car, a gang of six armed men attacked them, dragged the women out and allegedly raped them. One of the men in the family who tried to save the women was shot dead. The gang robbed the family of cash and jewellery before running away.
The incident has chilling similarities with the gang-rape of a mother and her teen daughter last year after a family was attacked on the highway near Bulandshahr, and became central to the BJP’s election promise of a crime-free state.
“If the UP government has got a mandate and they are unable to take control of law and order, then they should step down,” said Raj Babbar of the Congress, which partnered with Samajwadi party for the polls but was routed.