New Delhi: The otherwise sleepy Raisina Hill was on Saturday night abuzz with activity with a large number of youths shouting slogans against government and holding candlelight vigil to protest against the gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus on December 16.
The government today 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 the rape 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 gang-rape 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.
Four Metro stations near India Gate shut
Four Delhi Metro stations near the War Memorial will remain closed from Sunday morning till further orders to stop the flow of protesters near India Gate.
The metro stations that will remain closed will be Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhawan and Race Course stations, DMRC officials said.
The closing of stations for an indefinite time came following a direction from Delhi Police.
Cops who had failed to act against accused suspended
Delhi Police today suspended three policemen for allegedly not helping the victim of the gang-rape.
The three were among eight policemen who have been suspended for dereliction of duty.
Three Constables -- Kailash, Ashok and Sandeep -- of Hauz Khas police station were suspended for not helping Ramadhar, who was looted by six men who allegedly raped the 23-year-old girl in a moving bus last Sunday.
Five personnel of Connaught Place police station were also suspended for not taking action against those who were consuming alcohol in the heart of the capital. It came to notice during a surprise visit by Home Secretary RK Singh on Friday night.
"The stations will remain closed till DMRC gets further orders from the Delhi Police. All the four stations are close to India Gate. However, interchange will be allowed at Central Secretariat station," the officials said.
Victim has immense fighting spirit: Doc
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.
Opposition reacted sharply
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK 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.
Youth took the command of protest at Raisina Hill, 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 prime minister's office and the home finance, defence and external affairs ministries.
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 ahead.
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 condemnation.
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 RPN 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 baton charge.
"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 justified.
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 and Kolkata.
With IANS inputs
First Published: Sunday, December 23, 2012, 00:44