MUMBAI: A far-right political party is distributing thousands of knives to women in a western Indian state to help them protect themselves after a fatal gang-rape last month alarmed the country.
Shiv Sena, a party with a reputation for intimidation and unrest, began handing out the weapons to women at a function in Mumbai late Wednesday on the birthday of the group’s late founder Bal Thackeray, who died in November.
“The way you cut vegetables, cut the hand of the person who touches you the same way,” local party official Ajay Chowdhary told supporters, saying women should keep the three-inch (seven-centimetre) blades in their purses.
The party intends to distribute 21,000 of them across Maharashtra state, their main base, of which Mumbai is the capital.
The brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in the capital New Delhi in December outraged the nation and sparked protests over the lack of safety for women. The student later died in a Singapore hospital.
Her father told AFP on Thursday she had “successfully cleared” her final exams at the end of her physiotherapy studies, which she saw as her ticket out of the poverty of her parents.
“My daughter has secured a first division in the final examination. I plan to go to her college, meet her teachers and collect her certificates soon,” said the father.
“I will keep her certificates. She studied very hard to obtain good marks. Her certificates are a final gift to my boys.”
The dedicated student had been studying physiotherapy at the Sai Institute of Paramedical and Allied Sciences in the northern city of Dehradun, a popular tourist destination in the foothills of the Himalayas.
The victim’s parents sold their small piece of land in rural Uttar Pradesh in order to fund their daughter’s education, often limiting their own meals to little more than bread with salt.
“I gave her all the freedom after she had promised me that she will never let me down. It was difficult to finance her education and convince my wife to let her study away from home,” said her father, who works as a baggage handler at the New Delhi airport.
On Wednesday, a panel set up after the attack recommended new, tougher penalties for sexual crimes but stopped short of calling for the death sentence.