Jind (Haryana): Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday met the family of a Dalit teenaged girl, who immolated herself after being allegedly gang-raped in this district, and said perpetrators of such "barbaric" crimes must be severely punished.

She said those guilty of such heinous crimes, which take place not only in Haryana but elsewhere too, must be "severely punished".

"Doshiyoon ko sakt saza milnee chaiyehein (the guilty must be severely punished)," Sonia told reporters in a brief interaction at village Sachha Khera, where she met the victim's family and assured them of all possible help.

After reaching the village in her cavalcade crossing narrow lanes, Sonia when asked to comment on the growing number of such cases in Haryana in the recent past, said such acts were condemnable.

She was accompanied by Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Union Minister Kumari Selja, Haryana Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala and Congress MP from Sirsa, Ashok Tanwar.

When asked to comment on some Khap Panchayat or caste council leaders in Haryana suggesting that marriageable age for girls should be reduced to 16 as this will help in curbing the increasing instances of rapes in the State, the UPA Chairperson rejected it.

"We have a democratic system here, we have (an independent) judiciary...law is in the hands of judiciary, nobody else," she said.

The Haryana Government has drawn flak from all quarters, particularly the opposition, for its alleged failure to prevent incidents of crime against women.

The 16-year-old girl had sprinkled kerosene and immolated herself after allegedly being gang-raped by two youths in Narwana sub-division of the district.

The victim had breathed her last at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences at Rohtak, where she was rushed to from Narwana Civil hospital here with 90 percent burn injuries on Saturday.

The Jind rape was the 12th incident within a span of about a month in Haryana and the third in this district alone.

Asked about the Haryana government's "failure" in controlling such crimes that also involved many Dalit victims, Sonia said, "I have said what I had to say that such barbaric acts are condemnable".

After Sonia's return, Hooda and Surjewala stayed back to meet the victim's family. Senior police officials of the State were also present. Police had earlier arrested the teenaged victim's neighbour Pradeep, the main accused who had dragged the victim to his house, and his accomplice Naveen, who was also charged with raping the girl.

Three more people, including Pradeep's sister-in-law had been arrested in the case. The fifth accused in the case was a Haryana Policeman, posted at Hisar and has been booked for criminal conspiracy in the case.

Identified as Manoj, he is the relative of Meenu, the woman accused in the case, who kept guard while her brother-in-law Pradeep committed the crime.

Meanwhile, two more incidents of rape have been reported. A 12-year-old girl was allegedly raped in

Panipat on October 5 after being abducted by one of her relatives while in another incident in Ambala, on the complaint of a 30-year-old widow, Ambala Police have registered a case of rape and criminal intimidation against a Lal Kurti Bazar resident on Monday.

The Jind incident came close on the heels of series of horrific crimes against women in Haryana during the past one month and the third in Jind alone.

The rattled Haryana government had on Thursday formed a three-member committee at district levels to investigate, monitor and ensure speedy prosecution of such crimes.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had also taken serious view of the growing number of incidents of incidents of sexual assault against teenaged victims.


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