Manmohan talks of women safety but too little too late?

After days of lathi-charge, tear gas, water cannon, PM talks of women’s safety


Pratap Vikram Singh | December 24, 2012

Prime minister Manmohan Singh addressed the nation on Monday morning and appealed for calm as people continued protests against the brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in the national capital. After a jittery and rudderless government led by him watched public anger boil over on the streets of Delhi for days and exacerbated the situation by letting cops lathi-charge and water-cannoning girls and women, the PM assured in a televised address that "all possible efforts" would be taken to ensure security and safety of women in the country.

While maintaining that he would ensure that justice is delivered in the present case, Singh condemned violence in the streets. “While anger against the incident is justified, violence will serve no purpose,” he added.

Anger in the streets

But has the PM's attempt to put a soothing balm a case of too little too late? It comes a day after Delhi Police resorted to charging batons and shooting more than 100 rounds of tear gas shells on the protesters, injuring several women, men and mediapersons at India Gate. With barricades up and Metro stations in and around Ground Zero closed even on Monday, the administration, most protestors and citizens said, is acting on war-footing — a reaction way over the top in dealing with a spontaneous public movement.

On Sunday, as this correspondent arrived at India Gate, the cops resorted to heavy lathi-charge after a section of the crowd turned anarchic — hurling stones at cops and destroying public property.

While the protesters faced lathi-charge and tear gas shells since morning, the protest turned violent around pm, when a few unidentified elements pelted stones at policemen and destroyed barricades in the vicinity. According to spectators, a few members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and National Students Union of India – the students' wings of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, respectively – were behind stone pelting and the subsequent chaos.

“It all started after a scuffle between members of NSUI and ABVP. These people were drunk, too," said a group of protesters.

Most protestors, however, behaved and remained peaceful, simmering with anger against the police and the government.  Uncountable groups of young men and women stood there with placards demanding justice for the victim. While many protesters were teenagers, their demand was as direct as someone else. "Amend the IPC (Indian Penal Code)," said one, while another said, "We just want to live life with dignity — a fundamental right promised under Article 21 of Indian constitution."

"It is a shame for the government and political parties that they cannot send their representatives here.  They haven’t done anything substantial to address the wider concern about preventing rapes in Delhi," said Vijay Pandey, 22, who is a journalism student.

A Delhi Police constable, speaking on anonymity, articulated the same anger. “The people are right doing the protest. An amendment in legislation must be introduced to prevent rape," he said, while being apprehensive about the applicability of law on the high and mighty in society. 

To prevent themselves from baton and tear gas, the angry mob spilled over on the road in front of Pragati Maidan and toward Hyderabad House. After reaching one of the intersections, they jammed traffic, resulting in large queues of vehicles along a kilometer's stretch



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