Amid a nationwide outrage, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday arrested the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA accused of raping a minor in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao, while two ministers from the party in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) who attended a rally supporting the accused in the Kathua rape and murder case had to resign, soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted no criminal will be spared.
With the Opposition stepping up its charge that the states were shielding perpetrators of violence against women, Modi said justice will be done to daughters of the nation.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, accused of raping the 17-year-old Unnao girl, hours after the Allahabad High Court ordered his immediate arrest saying he was influencing the "law and order machinery".
Facing flak over the delay in taking action against his MLA in the nearly year-old rape case, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said his government will not deviate from its zero-tolerance policy on crime and that it would firmly deal with criminals, no matter how influential they might be.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who led a midnight march on Thursday in the national capital to protest the rape cases, hit out at the prime minister over his silence on violence against women and children, saying India was waiting for him to "speak up" and asked why accused rapists and murderers were "protected" by the state.
At an event to inaugurate the B R Ambedkar memorial in the national capital, Modi said, "I want to assure the nation that no criminal will be spared. Justice will be done. Our daughters will get justice" -- an apparent reference to rape cases in Unnao and Kathua (Jammu & Kashmir), where an eight-year-old was allegedly raped and killed.
Several BJP leaders hit out at the Opposition for "shedding crocodile tears" on the issue of safety of women and raised the issue of other cases of violence against women involving non-BJP leaders, including a few over a decade old, in what was seen by some as whataboutery.
Meanwhile, the strain heightened in the PDP-BJP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir over the alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from a nomadic Muslim community, even as two BJP ministers -- Chander Prakash Ganga and Lal Singh, who courted controversy by attending a rally supporting the accused in the case, tendered their resignation to state BJP chief Sat Sharma.
Sharma told PTI that a legislature party meeting of the BJP is scheduled for tomorrow in Jammu, which will take a call on their resignations.
The developments came after J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti spoke with Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP chief Amit Shah and party general secretary Ram Madhav, PDP sources said.
Mufti apprised them of the situation and requested them for their intervention to defuse the political crisis brewing in the state over the Kathua rape case, they said.
Ganga and Singh had earlier hit out at the police for arresting "one or the other person at will" in connection with the case.
Opposition parties National Conference and the Congress had demanded that Mufti should sack the two ministers.
PDP came out with a strong statement blaming the Centre and "hawkish and communal" elements in the BJP for failing the purpose of the alliance between the two parties in the state.
The rape victim had disappeared from a spot near her house in Kathua on January 10 and a week later, her body was found in the same area.
A Special Investigation Team of Crime Branch, formed to probe the incident, has arrested eight people, including two special police officers (SPOs) and a head constable and a Sub-inspector, who were charged with destroying evidence.
In the Unnao rape case, the Allahabad High Court earlier in the day directed the CBI to arrest Sengar, MLA from the Bangarmau assembly, saying the law and order machinery and officials were directly under his influence.
Hours later, the CBI which had brought Sengar to its Lucknow office at around 5 AM for questioning, arrested him. The probe agency has asked to file a status report by May 2.
The Unnao victim has alleged that she was raped by the MLA at his residence on June 4, 2017 where she had gone with a relative seeking a job.
In February, the girl's family moved court seeking to include the MLA's name in the rape case.
After this move, the victim's father was booked by the police under the arms act on April 3 this year and put in jail on April 5.
Alleging inaction and coercion from powerful people, the victim attempted self immolation in front of the CM's house on April 8 and the next day, her father died in jail with post-mortem report suggesting serious injuries on his body.
Faced with the embarrassment of its own MLA being involved in the case, the state government had referred the matter to the Centre yesterday for CBI probe -- a day before Allahabad High Court was to pronounce its order.
Sengar, a four-term MLA, enjoys immense clout cutting across party lines in the rural areas around Unnao district, a semi-urban area about 70 km from Lucknow.
Unnao, Kathua rape cases: Our daughters will get justice, says PM Modi
In his first comments on the gruesome incidents of rape in Unnao and Kathua, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday called them as a "shame" for the country and asserted that the guilty will not be spared and daughters will get justice.
Expressing anguish over the two incidents which have triggered widespread outrage, he also said such crimes challenge the very concept of social justice "and as a society and a country we all are ashamed of it."
"I want to assure the nation that no criminal will be spared. Justice will be done. Our daughters will get justice. We all will have to work together to end this internal evil," he said at an event to inaugurate the B R Ambedkar memorial here.
Rahul Gandhi thanks PM Modi for breaking his silence on rape incidents
"Dear Prime Minister, Thank you for breaking your long silence. You said 'our daughters will get justice'.
"India wants to know: when?#SpeakUp," he said in a tweet.