'India Ashamed': Outrage grows over ruling party lawmaker accused of rape

'India Ashamed': Outrage grows over ruling party lawmaker accused of rape
By Reuters
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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Protesters stepped up demands on Tuesday for India's ruling party to sack a state lawmaker accused by a young woman of raping her, holding several demonstrations just days after the accuser was critically injured in a highway collision.

Opposition groups say Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is protecting Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a legislator from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, whom the woman accused of the rape in 2017.

"Why do we give people like Kuldeep Sengar the strength and protection of political power and abandon their victims to battle for their lives alone?" Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a leader of the main opposition Congress party, asked on Twitter.

She called on Modi to immediately sack Sengar, named on Monday in a report to police, who are investigating a car crash at the weekend that has left the victim battling for her life.

Sengar denies the charges, but the case has put the spotlight on the crime situation in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state.

Its chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu monk-turned-politician, has said law and order in the state has improved since his party took power in 2017.

A party spokesman in the state, Rakesh Tripathi, said a disciplinary panel suspended Sengar last year and asked for his explanation. "He has not been sacked yet because the charges haven't been proven," Tripathi added.

Mayawati, a former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and leader of a major regional political party, said the ruling BJP was protecting Sengar, and asked India's Supreme Court to intervene.

Congress party workers staged a demonstration in the state capital of Lucknow, where the victim is in hospital. "My daughter is critical, there is no improvement in her condition," her mother said on Tuesday.

Dozens of opposition lawmakers protested outside India's parliament, holding placards with slogans such as "India Ashamed #Unnao", referring to the site of the crime. Elsewhere in the Indian capital, women and students' groups also held protests.

Modi, who has repeatedly cited women's issues as a priority for his government, including schemes to promote education and hygiene, has been silent on the case.

(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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