Anti-rape protesters defy ban in Delhi


Indian police try to grab a demonstrator near burning barricades during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student last week, in front the India Gate monument in New Delhi on December 23, 2012. In the biggest protest so far, several thousand college students rallied at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital where they were baton-charged, water cannoned and tear gassed by the police.



Police in New Delhi banned gatherings of more than four people on Sunday in an attempt to stop protestors from demonstrating against the gang rape of a 23-year old medical student, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Authorities tried to block Sunday's protests by closing nearby subway stations and blocking the road to the India Gate monument.

Thousands of protestors, mainly young college students, defied the ban and continued the second day of protests calling for the death penalty for the five accused rapists and stronger protections for Indian women. 

CNN reported police blasted demonstrators with water cannons who huddled tightly, in the cold December weather.

Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told CNN over 70 people were injured, 35 protesters and nearly 40 police, on Saturday.

According to the New York Times, protestors marched to the monument anyway where they taunted the police and attacked a member of Parliament's car. Police fired tear gas and water cannons, beat protesters with bamboo sticks and arrested dozens.

“We are not happy with this piecemeal, drop-in-the-ocean, inane response of the government” to concerns about women’s safety, protestor Albeena Shakil, 36, told the Times. “We want some big changes,” she said. “If the administration will not do it, who will?”

The demonstrations were held after a 23-year-old physiotherapist was allegedly attacked last Sunday after boarding a bus with a male friend. 

The Financial Times reports that the woman was severely beaten and raped by the driver and his five friends who were drinking heavily. 

Her injuries were so severe that the majority of her intestines had to be surgically removed. She remains in critical condition at a Delhi hospital but has been taken off life support. 

The incident highlighted the lack of women's safety in India where politicians have been criticized for not addressing the problem. 

The Times of India reports that Congressional president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul met with protesters on Sunday at her residence in New Delhi and said 'speedy action' would be taken against those accused. 

"She said the law and order situation will change very soon and the victim will get justice very soon," one of the protesters who met Gandhi told the Times. 

The attack seems to be a tipping point in public anger over the growing number of rapes, particularly in the capital of Delhi. According to the Wall Street Journal, Delhi had the highest number of rapes in India last year with a record of 572 incidents. 

India's junior home minister, R.P.N. Singh, appealed to the protesters to remain calm to enable a dialog about the problem. 

"We have to draw a line somewhere. We can't let the protesters run into government property," Singh said.