NEW DELHI: In an attempt to pressure the government to take appropriate action in connection with the rape cases of minors in Kathua and Unnao, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi led a midnight march to the India Gate in Delhi on Thursday night. Rahul asserted that the women of the country are afraid to go out today and the government must ensure their safety. He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to walk the talk on 'beti bachao' (save the girl child).
"Today, India's women are afraid of coming out in public. Women and girls are being killed and raped. We want that the government should resolve this issue so that the Indian women can come out on the roads and live a life free of fear," Rahul said.
Scores of Congress leaders, party workers, Rahul's sister Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra were also seen at the India Gate. Slogans were raised against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Prime Minister during the march and people were seen carrying candles. Placards against the Central government and Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir governments were also seen at the protest site. Those gathered at the scene demanded urgent action against the perpetrators of the two heinous gangrapes -- in Unnao (UP) and in Kathua (J&K).
Claiming that the protest was not a political one, Rahul said: "We are here against crimes being committed against women, against rapes, violence and murder and the government must act on this. This is a national issue and not a political one. This is about our women. Thousands are present here including the common people and people from all parties. This situation is such today that one after another incident of murder, rape and violence is taking place in various parts of the country. We are standing here against that and we want the government to act."
The Congress leaders present at the protest march to the India Gate included Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Salman Khurshid, Ashok Gehlot, Ajay Maken, Sushmita Dev, Haroon Yusuf, Randeep Surjewala and Ambika Soni. Azad said the Modi government was sleeping and those facing the biggest threat were the daughters of the country during the current regime.
Several Congress leaders attacked the Modi government saying the daughters were not safe in the country.
During the protest, Priyanka was seen miffed after the chaotic crowd shoved her, prompting her to ask people to maintain calm and remember the "cause" for which they had come there. Her husband Robert Vadra said the country needs a change where women could feel safe.
Some Congress leaders asked the people in the march to keep it a "silent" protest, even as a few were seen taking selfies as well.
Announcing the march, Gandhi had tweeted in the evening, "Like millions of Indians my heart hurts tonight. India simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does." Earlier on Thursday, he had also expressed anguish and shock on the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua, and attacked the BJP government in UP for failing to act against its MLA, who is an accused in the Unnao rape case of a 17-year-old girl.
"How can anyone protect the culprits of such evil? What happened at #Kathua is a crime against humanity. It cannot go unpunished. What have we become if we allow politics to interfere with such unimaginable brutality perpetrated on an innocent child?" he said.