Activists on Monday termed the remarks by Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati's on the lifting of ban on women's entry in Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra as "outrageous and appalling". They demanded his apology, failing which they have threatened to stage protests.
The religious leader had said, "the entry of women into the famous Shingnapur shrine which is devoted to Lord Shani will drive more rapes".
"This is a really ridiculous and appalling statement coming from a religious head of an institution that is followed by so many Hindus. Rape is criminalised in India and comparing it to worship is not acceptable.
"He should be taken to task for this. It is not expected from a man of his age and stature. He should apologise to the women of the country," said womens' rights activist Ranjana Kumari said.
CPM leader Brinda Karat said that the seer's comment "is far removed from reality."
"Will the Shankaracharya answer that all these years women were not allowed into the temple, so was there absolutely no problem that women faced... So all these years women were not there but many women faced so many problems and so the thinking itself is far removed from reality, from India's Constitution, from people of India's experience, that just has to be rejected with contempt it deserves," she said.
People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) member Kavita Srivastav demanded an apology from the Shankaracharya and threatened to launch a protest against him.
"What else can be more outrageous than this statement...He is silent on the rapes committed by men and the negligence of police towards such cases and he is silent on the protection being given to rapists also. I think Shankaracharya should take back his words and apologise. Otherwise our Mahila Andolan will give a befitting reply to him," she said.
Shankaracharya's comment came three days after the ban on the entry of women into the inner sanctum of the famous Shani shrine was revoked by the temple authorities.
But this is not the first time such (ridiculous) pronouncements have been uttered by public figures.
Baba Ramdev (Yoga guru)
In 2014, yoga guru Baba Ramdev blamed content of electronic media and education system for encouraging rapists to commit such crimes.
His comments came after a 25-year-old woman was allegedly raped by a radio cab driver in north Delhi’s Sarai Rohilla.
According to the yoga guru, the three reasons which contribute to rape were obscenity in electronic media, education system and disregarding values and laws.
Before that, in March 2013, Ramdev said that the Centre's decision to reduce the age for consensual sex from 18 to 16 years would affect the social order and increase rape cases in the country.
"If this decision (to lower age of consensual sex) is taken, rape cases will increase," he said. Ramdev alleged that the Bill aimed to benefit a "particular religion" and "break the Hindu society".
Jitender Chhatar (Khap Panchayat leader, Haryana's Jind district)
In 2012, Jitender Chhatar, a resident of Jind's Chhatar village and khap panchayat leader made the following comments.
"To my understanding, consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents. Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts. You also know the impact of chowmein, which is a spicy food, on our body. Hence, our elders also advised to consume light and nutritious food," Chhatar said.
The comments came a week after Sube Singh, a Khap leader, advocated lowering of age of marriage for girls from 18 years to 16 years on the grounds that young girls are vulnerable to rapes and should be married off earlier.
Asaram Bapu (Self-styled Godman)
In January 2013, Asaram Bapu, the self-styled godman, made some rather witless observations about the Delhi gangrape case by claiming that the 23-year-old woman, who died due to the severe injuries, was as guilty as those responsible for the barbaric sexual assault on her.
"Only 5-6 people are not the culprits. The victim daughter is as guilty as her rapists... She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop... This could have saved her dignity and life."
"Can you clap with one hand? I don't think so," he added.
Karnataka MLAs' Panel
In July 2014, a report tabled in the Karnataka Assembly by the state's Women and Child Development Department said, "There were several instances where mobile phones were used to lure girls to remote places and rape them. Mobile phones are debasing the educational atmosphere in schools and colleges."
Ironically, the report itself came amid statements made by politicians blaming women's style of dressing as the root cause of the crime.
Atul Kumar Anjan (CPI leader)
In September 2015, a senior leader of Communist Party of India (CPI) Atul Anjan, said that Sunny Leone's condom advertisements will lead to a rise in the number of rapes in India.
"Sunny Leone naam ki ek aurat hai. Duniya ki sabse nangi filmon ki woh heroine rahi hai (There is a woman called Sunny Leone. She has been the heroine in nude films)," said Anjan.
"Agar condom ke is tarah ke prachaar desh ke television aur akhbaaron mein chale, toh rape ki ghatnaaein badhengi (If such condom ads are shown on the country's television sets and in newspapers, then the number of rape incidents will increase)."
Anjan also said that he had never watched a single porn film in his life. But when he did watch porn for the first time, "do minute dekhne ke baad ulti hoti hai (After watching two minutes, I feel like vomiting)."
An yes, of course, there is a video of the speech.
Swami Sri Nischalananda Saraswati (Puri shankaracharya)
In January 2013, Sankaracharya of Puri Swami Sri Nischalananda Saraswati said that western influence was one of the main reasons behind the rise in incidents of rape in the country.
"Such horrific incidents (Delhi gang rape) don't happen all of a sudden. They happen when the thin line of culture and values are crossed in the name of civilization and development," he said.
He said Western influences like films, club culture and drugs were destroying the age old values and principles of India.
"Earlier sisters and brothers roamed freely but nothing used to happen. There has been decline in human values, emotions ... Our culture and civilization teaches us to respect women, who are our sisters and mothers," he added.
Mohan Bhagwat (RSS chief)
In January 2013, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that rapes took place because of Westernisation, and are not a matter of concern in rural India where traditional values were upheld.
"Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend. But such crimes won't happen in 'Bharat' or the rural areas of the country. You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang-rape or sex crimes," he said.
"Where 'Bharat' becomes 'India' with the influence of western culture, these type of incidents happen. The actual Indian values and culture should be established at every stratum of society where women are treated as 'mother'," he added.
Ramsewak Paikra (Chhattisgarh Home Minister, BJP)
In June 2014, talking to news channels, Ramsevak Paikra, responsible for law and order in Chhattisgarh state, said that rapes happen “accidentally”.
“Such incidents (rapes) do not happen deliberately. These kind of incidents happen accidentally,” he said.
He was responding to questions about the rise in incidents of rape.
Om Prakash Chautala (Former Chief Minister of Haryana)
In October 2010, Om Prakash Chautala, the former Chief Minister of Haryana, said that girls should be married early to prevent rapes.
"We should learn from the past... specially in Mughal era, people used to marry their girls to save them from Mughal atrocities and currently a similar situation is arising in the state. I think that's the reason khap has taken such a decision and I support it," he said backing Haryana khap for saying that girls should be married early to prevent rapes.
Mulayam Singh Yadav (Former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh)
In April 2014, Mulayam Singh Yadav said there was a need to change the anti-rape laws as "boys commit mistakes" for which they should not be hanged.
"Ladke, ladke hain. Galti ho jati hai (Boys are boys. They commit mistakes)," he said at an election rally in Moradabad.
Citing the recent example of a court sentencing three men found guilty of gang-raping two women in the abandoned Shakti Mills in Mumbai last year, he said there was a need to change the new rape law which provides for death sentence to repeat rape offenders.
"Efforts will be made to change such a law, so that those misusing it are punished. Those filing false reports will also be taken to task," he said.
Yadav said boys and girls fall in love but due to differences they fall apart later on. "When their friendship ends, the girl complains she has been raped," he said, stressing the need for changes in the anti-rape law.
A year later, in April 2015, Yadav struck again.
Yadav said that while one person commits rape, four are named in the complaint even though rape by four persons is not "practically" possible.
"One commits rape and then four more are named. Kabhi aisa ho sakta hai kya? Aisa practical hi nahin hai. (Can such a thing happen? It is impractical)," Mulayam said at a programme in Lucknow.
Abu Azmi (Samajwadi Party president)
In April 2014, Samajwadi Party president Abu Azmi said that women should also be punished in rape cases.
"If a woman is caught (in a rape case), then both she and the boy should be punished. In India, there is death penalty for rape, but when there's consensual sex outside marriage, there's no death penalty against women," he said in an interview.
With inputs from agencies.