Spiritual leader Asaram Bapu courted controversy for suggesting that the victim of the brutal sexual assault was equally responsible for the crime and saying the girl could have called her assailants brothers and begged them to stop.
Asaram's remarks on the gang-rape of the 23-year-old girl sparked condemnation across the political spectrum and from women's bodies on Monday with the BJP saying it was "regrettable, deeply disturbing and painful".
Addressing his followers recently, Asaram said that when the girl encountered six drunk men "she should have taken God's name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said I consider you as my brother and should have said to the other two 'Brother I am helpless, you are my brother, my religious brother.'
She should have taken God's name and held their hands and feet...then the misconduct wouldn't have happened."
He also went on to say, "Galti ek taraf se nahi hoti hai (mistake is not committed from one side)." The girl was gang-raped on the night of December 16 in a moving bus and died nearly a fortnight later at a Singapore hospital.
"The accused were drunk. If the girl had chanted hymns to Goddess Saraswati and to Guru Diksha then she wouldn't have entered the bus...," he added.
BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said Asaram is a religious guru and that the country looks up to him. "His statement is regrettable, deeply disturbing and painful," he said.
"For him to make the statement in relation to a crime which has shocked the conscience of the country is not only unfortunate but deeply regrettable," he added.
An aide to Asaram sought to downplay the controversy over the remarks. Neelam Dubey said the remarks were made at a religious discourse in Delhi in the context of how one should invoke God's name to avoid incidents like crimes against women. Some reports said the event was held in Rajasthan.
Dubey said Asaram was trying to drive home the point that incidents like the gang-rape of the girl could have been avoided by reciting mantras, by reciting names of Gods. "If she (victim) would have taken God's name or recited a mantra God inside her might have suggested her to how to avoid such crimes," she said, seeking to explain Asaram's remarks.
"He was giving that idea to his devotees. He was citing the gang-rape incident to say one should use commonsense to avoid such incidents," she added.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said religious leaders should give serious thought before they speak out.