Rahul Gandhi's midnight candlelight vigil: Congress chief with cadre marches against govt 'apathy' to Unnao, Kathua rapes

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tore into the ruling BJP government for "shielding" the villains in the Kathua and Unnao rape cases which have sparked widespread outrage for their brutality against innocents, one of them barely 8 years old. Gandhi led a midnight vigil at India Gate in New Delhi Thursday.

A four time BJP MLA from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh Kuldeep Singh Sengar is prime accused in the gang rape of a young local woman and the custodial death of the victim's father just days ago. In Kashmir's Kathua, an 8 year old was raped, tortured and killed by many men in a bid to settle communal scores.

"This is not a political issue but a national issue. We are seeking justice", Rahul told reporters early hours of Friday under a dark sky in New Delhi as camera flashlights popped and outrage against the murder of soft targets swirled on social media platforms and in living rooms across the country.

Rahul Gandhis midnight candlelight vigil: Congress chief with cadre marches against govt apathy to Unnao, Kathua rapes

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi at Thursday's midnight candlelight vigil. Image courtesy: @INCIndia

"What happened in Kathua is beyond humanity, an 8-year-old was kidnapped, brutally raped by many men, including a juvenile and tortured till she died. This defies all human values we have grown with as a society", Rahul said.

Posters skewering the BJP's 'Beti Bachao' (Save the girl child) slogan rose above the crowd as grim reminders of the brutal rape and killing of *****, an 8 year old who was grazing her horses in a meadow in Kathua, Kashmir on the day she was led away to her death in the musty innards of a deserted temple.

Speaking at length on both the Unnao and Kathua rape cases, Rahul accused the BJP government of "shielding brutality".

"This brutality, instead of being punished, is actually being shielded. In Unnao an underage girl is raped by an elected representative of the BJP and members of his family. We have seen how her family has been threatened and silenced by the accused. The father of the victim was beaten to death in judicial custody. Only an outrage led to action from Adityanath government. In both the cases, we seek immediate action against the accused even if it involves those who hold positions of power", Rahul said.

Rahul, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and a crush of Congress workers and senior party leaders laid blame on the BJP for failing to protect India's women. The decision to march to India Gate came together late Thursday evening via a Rahul Gandhi tweet: “Like millions of Indians my heart hurts tonight. India simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does. Join me in a silent, peaceful, candlelight vigil at India Gate at midnight tonight to protest this violence and demand justice."

"Our message to those who are allowing the Unnao and Kathua rape horrors to happen is this - don't try to divide our country on religious lines because that is the work of evil and such people will be shown the door when elections come," Congress spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi told Firstpost.

"We have all seen how the man who allegedly raped a girl in Unnao and got her father killed is laughing and talking to senior police officers in the state. The 2019 elections are not far away, the people of India will speak out. Our daughters are not safe while this government is in power," multiple Congress leaders said in unison as the crowds dispersed around 2:30am.

The 2019 general elections are less than 18 months away, Karnataka goes to the polls next month and the BJP's saffron stamp has only grown with each state election so far after the Bihar wallop in late 2015. Although Rahul Gandhi himself did not mention elections, Congress party acolytes are relishing the prospect that some of the outpouring of support from Thursday night may linger until 2019.

Reporting, visuals: Debobrat Ghose, Ravishankar Singh

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Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 22:32:54 IST

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