New Delhi: Protests related to the December 16 gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman escalated late on Sunday afternoon, after a few lumpen elements reportedly hurled bricks, stones and whatever else they could lay their hands on, on city police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel deployed across the national capital’s central vista.
The situation along Rajpath, the central thoroughfare leading from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhavan, appears to be spinning out of control, with protesters and security personnel clashing violently amidst sporadic tear gas shelling and water cannon firing.
Barricades set up across various intersections on the route have been thrown aside or dismantled, as the crowd’s anger is being vented on the law enforcement authorities inspite of the imposition of prohibitory orders.
Several protesters have been injured by cane wielding security personnel, a majority of whom are attired in riot-related gear. The injured have been taken to hospitals for first aid treatment.
Television channels showed live pictures of the tear-gassed shelled atmosphere above Rajpath, indicating the intensity of the clashes below.
The public anger is such that some have demanded the immediate execution of the rapists, whether by hanging or by being burnt alive.
Protesters appear relentless in their determination to reach Raisina Hill, the seat of government. Some leaders have been demanding that the Prime Minister stop having in camera meetings and take a decisive step or action in addressing the crowd to calm tempers and public rage over the incident.
This was the second successive day that police resorted to lobbing teargas shells and use of water-jets, besides using force to contain the protesters who are demanding speedy justice and stringent punishment for the accused, even as doctors at Safdarjung Hospital said the condition of the victim continues to be critical.
A group of protesters also met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who assured them of speedy action, but refused to give a time-frame for it.
Earlier in the day, East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit was stopped at India Gate and heckled. His car and a government jeep ferrying officials were damaged.
Central Delhi faced huge traffic chaos due to a security clampdown on Rajpath even as protesters blocked roads near India Gate.
Early this morning, around 50-60 protesters, who stayed put at Raisina Hills throughout the night and some others infront of Sonia Gandhi`s 10, Janpath residence, were evacuated while high drama was witnessed at India Gate when agitators resisted police attempts to detain them for defying prohibitory orders.