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Rape protest intensifies amid lathicharge

Posted on Dec 22, 03:22PM | IBNS

Thousands of protesters demanding justice for the Delhi gangrape victim intensified their agitation and fought pitched battles with the Delhi Police, taking their movement to the doorstep of the President of India at Raisina Hill on Saturday.

The Delhi Police unleashed batons, water cannons and fired teargas shells at the agitators comprising of students and women, when they marched towards the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

The security personnel stopped the protesters who had gathered at India Gate on Saturday morning and then marched towards Rashtrapati Bhavan.

There was chaos outside the North Block in the national capital as the police resorted to lathi charge and fired tear gas shells to disperse protesters as they attempted to break barricades and enter the premises.

The demonstrators, mostly youngsters, shouted slogans such as "We want justice" and Hang the rapists" as police tried to disperse them from the area.

Several protesters and a traffic policeman were reportedly injured during the clash as the agitators hurled stones, shoes and helmet missiles at policemen and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel.

Several police vehicles and buses were damaged during the clash as angry protesters refused to vacate the area that houses the North and South Blocks including the Prime Minister's office.

According to reports, six protesters were arrested from India Gate.

"They can't stop rape incidents. They can only torture us," a protester said.

"We were protesting peacefully but these policemen attacked us. We will not stop," said a woman protester.

"We are demanding justice. She (Delhi gangrape victim) deserves justice. We will not stop out protest," said another agitator.

Meanwhile, the government urged the protesters to 'calm down' so that a dialogue could be initiated in an orderly manner.

Minister of State for Home Affairs RPN Singh told CNN-IBN: "The protesters need to calm down, only then can a dialogue happen from the government's side in an orderly manner. We can't let the protesters break barricades and run into government property. The government has taken its stance that it will demand the harshest punishment for the rapists."

India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday condemned the lathicharge incident.

"The BJP condemn the action taken against protesters. We condemn the police action. They were our children. They were not associated with any party," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said while addressing a press conference here on Saturday.

Celebrities from different sectors of the society also condemned the incident on micro-blogging site Twitter.

Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur tweeted: "Water Cannon n Teargas on students when all of india supports them? Whats next? Bullets? Inexplicable silence from heads of Govt."

Actor Ashish Chowdhry said: "Protestors should know that police r workin on orders from above.It's no use hurting 1 or 2 cops.They too have family prayin 4 their safety.At the same time,hats off to our youth for its zest. Govt, pls speak up today,give the assurances they need so that situation can be eased."

Actress Gul Panag tweeted: "Subjecting the protesters( here to protest against State apathy) to water-canons.In this weather.Is it possible be more insensitive?"

Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle said: "Uncomfortable thought. if you were a policeman today and saw mobs breaking barricades what would you do? i agree though that justice needs to be seen to be done too. has to be a deterrent. but real change will start in schools and families."

Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen tweeted: "Instead of beating rapists police beat rape- protesters. What a shame!"

Earlier in the day, ex-Army Chief V K Singh joined the demonstrators at the India Gate.

Meanwhile, the Delhi girl who withstood the rape and unprecedented torture by a group of men on a bus who then threw her off the vehicle on road to die on Sunday night last is psychologically balanced and is even optimistic about her future though doctors are still worried about her infection, the caregivers at the hospital said on Saturday.

Doctors said the girl too water and juice and remained pyschologically composed.

"She is psychologically composed. We have used sensitive approach to make her talk to us and she is responding . She is extraordinarily stable and optimistic," said doctors of Safdarjung Hospital.

"She is a brave girl who is even optimistic about her future. She is psychologically totally balanced," said doctors.

The doctors said the girl is better than Friday and more alert as she asked for water herself when she needed it and her vital parameters are optimum.

"All parameters are optimum. But there is still infection and her her Bilirubin level is more, platelet less," said doctors.

"There is chance of infection and it is there," said one of the doctors.

On Friday, the sixth accused in the case was arrested from Aurangabad in Bihar, hours after the fifth accused was arrested from Uttar Pradesh.

On Thursday, one of the four accused in the case was "identified" by the victim's friend during a test identification parade (TIP) at Tihar Jail, a report quoted a senior police official as saying.

The three others arrested till then, Ram Singh, Pawan and Vinay, had refused to undergo the test identification parade.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has convened a meeting on Dec 27 to discuss the Delhi gangrape case and the law and order situation in the country.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, committee's chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said: "The meeting is going to deliberate on issues concerning the rape incidents, the changes, if any, to be made to the statute and also the suggestions for the government."

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has sent notices to Union home secretary R K Singh and Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, asking them to attend the meeting.

The girl after watching a movie on Sunday evening along with a male friend had boarded a Whiteline bus where the horror unfolded as she was raped and brutalized with an iron rod. She and her friend, who was also hit with iron rod, were then thrown off the bus on a flyover from where they were later rescued and taken to hospital.

The brutality of the attack led to unprecedented protests that swept India as people from all walks of life took to streets expressing their angst, even as administrators scrambled for words and tried to pacify the outrage with talk of action.

Hundreds continue to gather at India Gate in Delhi every evening with banners and placards, holding candlelight vigils and performing street plays. Protesters also took their stir before the residence of President of India in the high security zone of Delhi.