Allegations have been made that the survivor’s husband was unable to get help from the railway police, something that the Andhra Minister has downplayed.

Andhra Pradesh Home Minister Taneti Vanitha, who faced flak for her remarks on Repalle gangrapeAndhra Pradesh Home Minister Taneti Vanitha/File Photo
news Controversy Wednesday, May 04, 2022 - 15:46

Andhra Pradesh Home Minister Taneti Vanitha is in the news yet again for another controversial remark on incidents of sexual assault in the state, for the second time in the past week. Speaking to the media in Guntur on May 3, Tuesday, about the recent incident at the Repalle railway station where a pregnant woman was raped by three men, the minister denied that it was related to a shortage of Government Railway Police personnel. Vanitha said that the accused hadn’t come to the station with the intention of assaulting the woman and that they were drunk and attacked her husband to rob him, when the woman intervened. “In such situations, some things happen in an unexpected manner. That is unrelated to shortage of police personnel," she said.  

There have been two incidents of gang rape at railway stations in the state in the last two weeks. On April 16, a young woman from Maharashtra who was at the Gurazala railway station in Palnadu district with her child was raped. The police have nabbed two accused in connection with the incident. On May 1, a 25-year-old pregnant woman was raped at the Repalle railway station in Bapatla district, and police arrested three persons, including a minor. 

When the Repalle incident happened, some reports suggested that the woman’s husband was unable to get help from railway police and others present nearby, and the accused had assaulted the woman and escaped by the time he returned with the police. While the Home Minister admitted to a shortage of police personnel and stated that security has been increased, she said the incident was unrelated to the number of railway police personnel available at the stations. 

“For these incidents to happen, there are some psychological situations and poverty is also a reason. In the Repalle woman’s incident, they (accused) hadn’t come there with the intention of assaulting the woman. They were drunk and attacked the man for money. When the woman intervened to protect her husband, when they pushed her away and confined her…In such situations, some things happen in an unexpected manner. That is unrelated to shortage of police personnel,” Vanitha said. 

She went on to say that while there is some shortage of police personnel, “it is not severe.” “We will decide soon how to rectify it. We are increasing security at railway stations, will install more CCTV cameras and night beats have been increased. As the previous incident and this one are related, security has been increased,” she said. 

Criticising her statement, the official account of the opposition Telugu Desam Party tweeted, “The minister who has degraded women by recklessly saying rapes tend to happen, instead of condemning them, should immediately tender a public apology and resign from her post.”

In the Repalle incident, the survivor, her husband and their three kids, who had gone to Guntur for masonry work, had arrived in Repalle by train around midnight on April 30. As they were sleeping on the platform, police said three people woke them up to ask them the time, and when the survivor’s husband said they did not have a watch, they assaulted him.

The three accused then took Rs 750 from the survivor, and when she tried to stop them, they dragged her behind a nearby bush. Her husband went to the Repalle police station with the help of locals and lodged a complaint. When the police personnel searched the area, they found the woman in some bushes, and she told the police that the men had sexually assaulted her. 

A day before this incident, at a press conference in Vizag, the Home Minister had said that it was a “mother’s responsibility to protect her child against sexual crimes,” while referring to an incident of child sexual abuse where a girl had been sexually assaulted by a neighbour. Vanitha said that in such incidents, the onus of protecting children from sexual abuse is more on the mother than the father. These remarks surfaced online a day after the Repalle incident and created a furore in the state, with the opposition leaders and many others condemning them.  

“Without playing the role of mother, putting the blame on the police department or the government or others isn’t right. So, first of all, as a mother, we need to fulfil our responsibilities towards our children properly,” the Home Minister had said. The opposition TDP leaders shared the Home Minister’s remarks and said that Andhra Pradesh has “never witnessed such an atrocity nor abdication of responsibility.”

However, the Home Minister in a statement said that the TDP and pro-TDP media have spread false propaganda, without giving full context. The Minister dared the TDP and the media houses which spread “false propaganda” to release the full video of the incident. “The Minister made the statement while specifically talking about incidents where fathers of young girls themselves commit atrocities on them,” a statement from the Home Minister’s Office read. 

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