NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi refused to apologise after Lok Sabha proceedings were adjourned for half-an-hour on Friday following protests by BJP members over his reported remarks about rape in the country.
Calling the BJP protests as an attempt to divert attention from the situation in the Northeast, Rahul said. "I have a clip on my phone in which Narendra Modi ji is calling Delhi a 'rape capital'."
Rahul Gandhi: I have a clip on my phone in which Narendra Modi ji is calling Delhi a 'rape capital',will tweet it so that everyone can see. Just to deflect attention from protests in North East, this is being made an issue by BJP. https://t.co/BF4toNRaO8 pic.twitter.com/4wRWTZy4Np— ANI (@ANI) December 13, 2019
BJP members, including ministers, demanded that Gandhi apologise for his remarks, which they said was shameful for the country's women.
"As far as their (BJP's) demand for apologising (is concerned), I am never going to apologise to them," he told reporters outside Parliament.
He also said the main issue today is that "the BJP, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have burnt the entire North East and this is a tactic used to divert attention" by raising his rape remarks.
"Modi should apologise. For burning the North East. For destroying India's economy. For this speech, a clip of which I'm attaching," Gandhi later tweeted.
Many members from the ruling party stood in the aisle, raising slogans.
Congress members were also in the aisle.
Talking to reporters, Gandhi said "Narendra Modi should also reply not just about the violence on women, but also about why he destroyed the country's economy and he should also answer on why he snatched away jobs of the youth of the country."
"Today the main issue is that the BJP, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have burnt the North East. That is the issue. And to divert the attention from this issue, Narendra Modi and the BJP are raising my statement," he claimed.
Gandhi also clarified his remarks made in Jharkhand on Thursday.
"I had said that Narendra Modi had talked about 'Make in India' and we thought we would see 'Make in India' in all the newspapers. But, when we read newspapers we only see 'Rape in India' everywhere. There is no BJP-ruled state where rapes are not happening against women. In Unnao, a BJP MLA committed rape against a woman, and also got an accident done of the victim's car, but Narendra Modi did not utter a single word and neither took any action," the Congress leader alleged.
"What has happened is that Narendra Modi makes use of violence and spreads it and today there is violence in the entire country. There is violence against women, there is violence in the North East and in Kashmir, and there is violence in the entire country," he further alleged.
Gandhi said India's biggest strength was its economy and today Raghuram Rajan (former RBI governor) during a meeting told him that no one talks about India or Indian economy any longer in the US or Europe.
"And, when India is talked about it is about atrocities, division and violence. They have ruined the entire reputation of our country and this is what I talked about in my speech yesterday," he said.
Gandhi faced a strong attack from the BJP over his 'rape in India' remarks made during a poll rally in Jharkhand and demanded an apology.
The issue was raised by the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal after the Lok Sabha Speaker paid tributes to the security personnel who sacrificed their lives in the December 13, 2001 Parliament attack when the House assembled for the day.
Meghwal said Rahul Gandhi mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India" slogan calling it "Rape in India". "Is he inviting people to rape in India? What does his mean? It is shameful. He should apologies to the people of the country."
Following which, BJP member and West Bengal MP Locket Chatterjee hit out at Gandhi condemning his statement.
"Does Rahul Gandhi want people to rape women in India? Come rape us. Is this his thinking?"
Union Minister Smriti Irani said it has happened first time in the history of India that an MP has been inviting people to come and rape "Indian women".
"The son of Gandhi family is calling people to rape women."
Gandhi made the controversial "Rape in India" remark during a public rally in Jharkhand's Godda district on Thursday aiming to highlight crimes against women under Prime Minister Modi's regime. He said Modi's pet project "Make in India" was nowadays more like "Rape in India".
All the women BJP members gathered at one side sloganeering "Rahul Gandhi Mafi Mango (Rahul Gandhi apologies), "We want justice". The opposition also stood on their seat rejecting the allegations against Gandhi sloganeering against the Centre.
Gandhi, too was seen inside the House. He had reached following one of the adjournments and television visuals caught him smiling even as the uproar continued.
Amid the din, Speaker Om Birla adjourned the proceedings of the House around 1130 am for half-an-hour.
Later the Speaker adjourned the House sine die, and the protests continued as he read out the list of business taken up by the House during the Winter session.
Friday was the last day of the Winter Session.
Amid the din in the House, DMK's Kanimozhi defended Gandhi as Congress members also came out of their seats in protest and asked the Speaker to take up the Question Hour.
She said Gandhi did not make the remarks in the House and that he was referring to cases of sexual assaults and violence against women in the country.
Kanimozhi's reaction came after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi asked her and NCP leader Supriya Sule to express their opinion about Gandhi's remarks.
Joshi termed her response "unfortunate".
Tearing into the Congress leader, Union minister Smriti Irani said he had "insulted" the women and men of India and claimed his remarks amounted to inviting people to rape women.
Seeking his apology, Irani said he should be punished.
Joining the issue, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh attacked Gandhi and said such MPs don't have moral right to be a member of the House.
Gandhi has hurt not only the House but the entire country, he said.
Singh said the Modi government had started 'Make in India' programme to transform India from an importing nation into an exporting one.
It is aimed at providing employment to youth in the country but people are now rhyming it with remarks which cannot be uttered, Singh said.
"Such members have no moral right to be a member of Lok Sabha," the senior BJP leader said, demanding apology from Gandhi.
The Congress leader should apologise to the entire nation, he said.
He recalled that BJP members Ananth Hegde and Sadhavi Nirajan Jyoti had expressed regret in the House for remarks made outside.
Both were then ministers.
Jyoti is a minister in the present dispensation as well.
Irani also said Gandhi referred to rape cases to make mockery of his political rivals which is condemnable.
She said Kanimozhi's defence of Gandhi was "disgusting to to say the least".
Earlier in the morning, as the ruckus continued for around half-an-hour, the speaker adjourned the proceedings till noon.
Question Hour could not be taken up.
More than 30 members from the BJP, including Bhopal MP Pragya Thakur, were seen standing in the aisle and shouting slogans.
Congress members, too, were in the aisle.
(With PTI inputs)