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Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 12:53 UK

India leader held over comments

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Rita Bahuguna Joshi is escorted to prison by police

A senior leader of India's governing Congress party has been arrested after attacking the rape compensation policy of Uttar Pradesh's chief minister.

Rita Bahuguna Joshi said the amount of money was so low it was demeaning.

She said rape victims should offer to compensate state chief minister Mayawati were she ever raped herself.

Amid the furore, Ms Joshi's house was burned down and there was uproar in parliament. But some accuse her rivals of pursuing a political vendetta.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says that the incident has only served to fan the political flames. India's parliament had to be adjourned after heated exchanges about Ms Joshi's comments.

The incident is likely to escalate into a major political controversy given the rising tensions between the ruling Congress party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Ms Mayawati, our correspondent says.

Ms Joshi, who is being held in custody for 14 days, has apologised for her remarks.

Charges

A senior Uttar Pradesh police official, Brij Lal, said that a criminal case had been registered against Ms Joshi for allegedly "casteist" and derogatory remarks made against Ms Mayawati, Uttar Pradesh's chief minister.

Some television channels showed Ms Joshi saying that recipients of rape compensation "should throw the money back in Ms Mayawati's face and tell her that if you are raped, we will give you 10 million rupees".

Ms Mayawati is herself a Dalit (formerly "untouchable") and an icon to the lower castes. She is a powerful and controversial figure in India, correspondents say.

Ms Joshi has been charged specifically with making provocative statements creating "disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will" between people of different castes or communities.

She has been also charged under a law which deems making "offensive" statements against lower castes and tribespeople an offence.

Attacks on Ms Mayawati would count because as a Dalit she is covered by the act.

Cars 'burned'

Ms Joshi is said to have made the comments during a meeting of women party workers.

Ms Joshi's house on fire in Lucknow
Enraged Mayawati supporters set Ms Joshi's house on fire

As the news of the speech spread, the authorities registered a case against Ms Joshi and police arrested her on her way back to the Indian capital, Delhi.

About 150 furious supporters of Ms Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) then marched to Ms Joshi's house in the state capital, Lucknow, and set it on fire, reports the BBC's Ram Dutt Tripathi.

A number of cars were also burned.

Ms Joshi has apologised for her comments, saying she was only trying to "expose a chief minister who has no sympathy for women".

"I regret what I said in a fit of anger. If it is being misconstrued, if it's being misinterpreted, it is being taken out of context, then I regret it," she said.

"I am myself a woman and I should not have spoken these words... I really apologise."

Congress party leader Digvijay Singh criticised the decision to arrest Ms Joshi.

"This is an example of the rule of the jungle in Uttar Pradesh. Ms Joshi has already apologised for her comments. What she said was not correct, but we need to see in what context she made the remarks," he told reporters.

Relations between the two parties have been tense ever since the Congress made major inroads in this politically crucial state - Uttar Pradesh has 80 MPs in the Indian parliament - during recent general elections.



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