India right-wing party calls rape charges 'a fashion'

NEW DELHI - Indian right-wing party Shiv Sena Saturday said filing sexual assault charges has "become a fashion" in an article backing a police officer accused of rape.

The hardline nationalist outfit - a key ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government based in Maharashtra state - threw its support behind a senior state police officer who has been accused of rape by a model and questioned the victim's intentions.

"Cases of charging men with molestation and rape in hi-fi (high) societies to create hype is on a rise now. It has almost become a fashion," the hardline Hindu nationalist outfit wrote in its mouthpiece, "Saamana" (To Confront).

"After he has served for so many years in the police force, one model now charges DIG (deputy inspector general) Sunil Paraskar with rape and in one night he becomes a villain.

"Such accusations have become good weapons to seek personal revenge." It added that the Indian judicial system needed to "open its eyes" and protect the innocent because "all the laws in the country favour women so anyone can slap any charge against anyone".

India toughened sex assault laws following the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012 which sparked nationwide protests, but the move has done little to stem sex attacks against women.

Last month the alleged rape of a six-year-old girl in a school triggered a series of street protests by angry parents and political activists over the lack of safety for women and children in the country.

A 16-year-old girl in Dehi was also gang raped at gun point in June while a seven year old girl was found hanging from a tree in a village in West Bengal state. Locals suspect she was raped.

In May two girls in Uttar Pradesh state found hanging from a tree had been gang raped in a case that sparked new waves of public revulsion over violence towards women.

Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party promised a "zero tolerance" approach to violence against women after it swept to power at May elections.

However two state BJP ministers trivialised rape in June when one said the attacks happened "accidentally" and another said that they were "sometimes right, sometimes wrong".

Uttar Pradesh's Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh was also the target of public anger in April when he told an election rally that he opposed the recently introduced death penalty for gang-rapists, saying "boys make mistakes".

The Shiv Sena, which has a history of inciting violence, came under fire after some of its MPs tried to forcibly feed a chapati - an Indian flatbread - to a Muslim restaurant manager fasting for Ramadan because they were unhappy about food at a government canteen on July 23.