MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s radical Hindu nationalist party governing Mumbai has handed out kitchen knives and chili powder to women following a gang rape in the capital New Delhi that ignited a national debate on the best way to tackle sex crimes.
The Shiv Sena party, an ally of the main opposition BJP, said it had handed out 21,000 knives with three-inch blades to women in the city and surrounding areas and plans to distribute 100,000.
Mumbai police said they were examining the knives and considering legal action.
“This is a symbolic gesture,” said Shiv Sena spokesman Rahul Narvekar, adding that a knife shorter than six inches in length does not fit the definition of a weapon. The party also handed out small bags of chili powder – apparently to throw into an attacker’s eyes.
“It’s only to pass a signal to eve-teasers, anti-social elements and perpetrators of crime against women that women are empowered and they can take care of themselves,” Narvekar said.
Eve-teasing is a euphemism for molesting women.
“Don’t be afraid of using this knife if someone attacks you,” Ajay Chaudhari, running the knife campaign, was quoted by the party newspaper, Saamana, as saying.