New Delhi: The
government Saturday faced the full blast of youth power as young
men and women laid siege around Raisina Hill, the seat of power,
demanding justice for a 23-year-old gangrape victim, forcing
police to use canes, tear gas and water cannons on the undeterred
crowd of thousands.
The aggression of the youngsters and the mass outpouring since
early Saturday morning, led Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ask
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to ensure that people feel safe
in Delhi and incidents like the brutal gangrape of the
physiotherapist are not repeated.
Shinde met Manmohan Singh and briefed him about the measures taken
by his ministry to ensure safety of women in the national capital.
A concerned Congress chief Sonia Gandhi also spoke to the prime
minister and home minister and asked them to take appropriate and
immediate action to protect women in the city that is often
described as the "rape capital". The Indian capital has registered
over 600 incidents of rape this year, police records say.
A shaken Shinde later told reporters that the government will set
up a commission to probe the incident that has shocked the nation.
"A probe will be conducted to look into the incident and suggest
measures to check such crimes in Delhi...the Criminal Procedure
Code will be amended to enhance punishment in such rarest of rare
cases," Shinde, who said he is also a father of three daughters,
told reporters in a hurriedly convened press conference.
Doctors at Safdarjung Hospital, where the woman is being treated,
said that she has shown some "improvement" and that she is
"psychologically stable, optimistic and hopes to having a good
future". The young woman also recorded her statement to the
magistrate about last Sunday night when she was tortured and
brutally raped by six men and then stripped, robbed and thrown off
a moving bus alongwith her boyfriend on the roadside.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani said that the
anger of people was "justified" and the government needs to
"appreciate their concern".
His party leader Sushma Swaraj also asked the prime minister to
call a special session of parliament to frame a law providing for
exemplary punishment for crimes against women.
But the day belonged to the youth, especially women.
The country's highest seat of power was turned into a virtual
battlefield as thousands of furious and determined youngsters
marched towards Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president's house, raising
slogans and demanding justice for the gangrape victim and tougher
laws against rapists.
While the entire stretch of about 2.5 km from India Gate to
Raisina Hill was packed with protesters, the fury towards
authorities was palpable miles away.
Raisina Hill is home to the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace
that is flanked by the South Block and North Block with the the
prime minister's office and the home finance, defence and external
The numbers kept on swelling as all roads literally led to the
president's house in an unprecedented protest rarely seen earlier.
The mass outpouring for the young woman even overwhelmed the
securitymen, who found themselves outnumbered. Matters came to a
head when the protesters tried a repeat of Friday when a large
number of people tried to enter Rashtrapati Bhavan.
But despite the police barricades, the surging crowd kept pushing
The police then resorted to caning, threw tear gas shells and
sprayed the crowd with water in the winter chill. Police resorted
to canning at least three times.
The sight of police chasing youngsters and beating them with
canes, aired live by television channels, led to widespread
Armed with banners, posters, placards, the crowd, which stayed put
at the entire stretch from morning till late evening, raised
slogans like "We want justice". Many of them climbed atop police
buses and waved the tri-colour.
In a unique way of protest, many young girls and boys climbed the
flagpoles that dot Rajpath, which leads to India Gate, the
memorial of the unknown soldiers.
"They can try their best to stop us but lets' see who gives up
first," said a fuming Shikha Verma, a Delhi University student.
But Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V.
Narayanasamy said "agitation is not the solution" and "when they
defy law and order, government has to use force".
Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh said that there were
attempts to break barricades in the sensitive area close to the
president's house and other key government offices.
The BJP and the Left supported the agitators and condemned the
"If the prime minister can address the nation on the issue of FDI
retail, why can't he find time to do so when such horrendous
crimes against women are taking place," Communist Party of India
leader D.Raja said.
Advani, who called up Shinde, told him that there was need to
appreciate the concern of the protesters and their anger was
In many neighbourhoods in the capital, people took out protest
rallies. As the evening set in, many marched to India Gate to hold
candle light vigil.
Protests were also witnessed in Kanpur, Jhansi, Lucknow, Meerut