Outrage over a Delhi gang rape reached a tipping point as thousands of women activists and students marched to Indian president’s residence, trying to break through its fortified gates demanding justice for the victim who was brutally raped in a moving bus.
Anger was palpable on the streets, as protesters shouting “We want justice” went past the barricades erected outside the gates, before they were frisked away by the police.
The demonstrators later marched towards the India Gate memorial, holding placards and shouting anti-government slogans to demand stringent anti-rape laws.
The gruesome assault on a 23-year-old medical student who was gang-raped in the Indian capital on Dec. 16 and was later thrown out of the vehicle, leaving her with severe genital, abdominal and head injuries, has shocked the nation, stoking protests and rallies across India demanding tougher laws.
“We demand speedy trial in the case and stringent punishment for the rapists, so that no one dares to repeat such a heinous crime not only in Delhi, but all over India,” said Meera Singh, a women’s rights activist and one of the protesters.
Meanwhile, on Friday the police detained a fifth person in connection with the gang rape. Four people, including the bus driver, have already been arrested.
Three of the four accused appeared in a local court on Wednesday, where, according to local media reports, they confessed to the crime.
The court has remanded two of the accused to four-day police custody, while one of them has been sent to judicial custody for 14 days.
Meanwhile, protests swept various Indian cities, as people from all quarters stood united, demanding their right to be able to work and travel safely.
In Kanpur in north India’s Uttar Pradesh state, women demonstrators were sighted with a noose, symbolically demanding death by hanging for the culprits.
Anger spilled onto the streets of northern Lucknow City, as students demanded action and a guarantee for their safety.
“We cannot depend on the government now and we have to take our security in our own hands. We have to take a decision to protect ourselves as well as other women, who go out to work,” said Shruti Sinha, a protesting student.
Gender abuses are more common across India’s conservative northern belt, which includes Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Bihar, largely due a deep-rooted mindset that women are inferior and must be restricted to the role of homemakers.
Not only the politicians in the corridors of power, some even evoked divine intervention, holding special prayers in temples for the speedy recovery of the rape victim.
“We are chanting the Maha Mrityunjay (mantra for conquering death) to pray for the health of the girl, who recently fell prey to animals in the disguise of human beings. She is battling for her life, so we pray that she gathers the courage to fight this battle,” said Raju Pandya, a priest conducting the prayers in the northern Indian holy town of Varanasi.
Even school girls took to the streets to express solidarity with the victim.
The brutal nature of the Delhi incident has shocked the nation where one woman is raped every 20 minutes, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, which reported 24,206 rapes in 2011 — an almost 10 per cent rise over the previous year.
Delhi’s rape figures are the highest among Indian cities of comparable size.
Women in India face a multitude of threats, from illegal abortions of female fetuses due to a preference for sons, to the murders of brides by in-laws for want of more dowry, child marriage and human trafficking.