Sonia Gandhi
Sonia GandhiReuters

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Tuesday visited the family of the teenaged dalit girl who set herself on fire after being raped by two youths in Jind district, Haryana.

After meeting the victim's family, the UPA chairperson told reporters that the accused should get the severest possible punishment for carrying out the mortifying act.

"I criticize in the strongest terms these kinds of horrifying incidents. The guilty should get the severest and strictest punishment," Gandhi told reporters.

Gandhi also rejected a suggestion by Haryana Khap panchayat that pitched for lowering the marriageable age of girls from 18 to 16 years to curb the high rate of rape incidents in the state.

"We have democratic systems here. We have a judiciary. The law is in the hands of the judiciary and not with the Khaps in Haryana," she said, adding that rape incidents are increasing in other states of the country besides Haryana.

Gandhi's visit came at a time when the state government was under fire for doing little about the increasing number of crimes against women in the past one month. As many as 13 rape cases were reported since September.

State Congress chief Phool Chand Mullana also admonished the government for failing to keep a check on the crimes. "It seems there are certain forces behind these rapes. I apprehend there is a conspiracy to defame the government," she said according to The Times of India.

Meanwhile, the state government had created a three-member committee at the district level to investigate the rising number of rape cases and to also ensure speedy trial of such crimes.