RELIGION
01/08/2013 11:25 am ET | Updated Apr 08, 2013

Asaram Bapu, Indian Guru, Draws Criticism For Comments About Delhi Gang Rape Victim

A self-proclaimed spiritual guru from India is facing backlash after comments he made about the late victim of a grisly gang rape in Delhi.

Addressing his followers, Asaram Bapu said that if the victim, 23-year-old student Jyoti Singh Pandey, had chanted the Saraswati mantra -- a Hindu mantra recited for higher knowledge and wisdom -- she wouldn't have stepped onto the bus where she was raped by six men, according to the Times of India.

Bapu is reported to have said that Pandey should have appealed to her attackers as brothers in faith and begged them to stop.

"She should have taken God's name and held their hands and feet... then the misconduct wouldn't have happened," Bapu said, adding, "Mistake is never from one side alone."

Critics say Bapu's remarks place blame on the victim of the rape. Pandey died Dec. 29 in Singapore -- 13 days after the brutal attack.

"What he is saying is that women must beg for her life and not fight back," activist lawyer Vrinda Grover told the Times of India. "Reports said that the victim expressed a will to live... People like [Asaram Bapu] are scared that women are now asserting themselves."

The guru's representative, Nilam Dubey, claimed that the media distorted Bapu's remarks.

"Bapujee never made such statements. He just asked his women followers to avoid such situation anyhow," Dubey told Asian News International. "He was only suggesting that women should try their level-best to come out from such situation by using diplomatic ways."

On Tuesday, the guru compared his critics to barking dogs.

"First one dog barked. Then another dog barked. Soon all the dogs in the neighborhood started barking... They can say what they like. I don't care," Bapu said.

News of the gang rape stoked massive public outcry in India, with protesters calling for justice, and for changes to a legal system that they claim lags far behind in the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against women.

On Monday, a magistrate in India ruled that the trial of the men involved in the attack would be closed to the media.

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