Undeterred by the shutdown of the heart of the capital, with India Gate and its surrounding areas being declared out-of-bounds, a large number of young men and women besides members of various students, social and political organisations took out peace marches and staged silent sit-ins at Jantar Mantar and other parts of the city on Saturday — to mourn the death of the gang-rape victim in Singapore in the early hours.
Anticipating an aggressive public outburst, all senior police officers were on alert, as soon as the news broke. A large contingent of Rapid Action Force and police personnel in anti-riot gear were summoned at 4 a.m. and barricades were erected to prevent large assemblies of people in the heart of the city. Ten Delhi Metro stations in Central Delhi were also shut down.
The area surrounding India Gate was sealed and all arterial roads leading up to the War Memorial, particularly the Vijay Chowk-Rajpath stretch that witnessed massive protests over the weekend, were barricaded.
People in small groups started gathering at Jantar Mantar since early morning. Members of students’ organisations and the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party also joined the silent protests, covering their mouth with black bands. The turnout, however, was less compared to last weekend’s crowds at the same venue.
However, an otherwise peaceful gathering turned aggressive when Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit suddenly turned up at the protest venue around 2.30 p.m. taking even the police by surprise. Angry protesters, shouting slogans, gheraoed the Chief Minister and booed her. Before she was driven out of the venue, Ms. Dikshit lit a candle for the gang-rape victim.
While leaders of the Left parties also took out a silent march and organised a sit-in at Jantar Mantar, a little away from the large gathering, a march was organised at Mandi House. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union also marched from the university campus to Munirka in South Delhi where the victim had boarded the bus.
A team comprising Assistant Commissioner of Police of the Defence Colony sub-division and Station House Officers of the Vasant Vihar and Safdarjung Enclave police stations is now in Singapore to support the grieving family and for purposes of investigation and necessary documentation. While the post-mortem was conducted by a Singaporean medical team in the presence of Indian officials and her relatives, the Delhi Police Crime Branch invoked the murder charge under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code against the accused. The police said a Special Public Prosecutor of eminence has also been appointed to conduct the trial in a fast-track court on a day-to-day basis. The charge sheet is expected to be filed on January 3.
“Dayan Krishnan, an eminent lawyer and counsel in the Delhi High Court, will work as Special Public Prosecutor in the gang-rape case registered at the Vasant Vihar police station. Mr. Krishnan has himself volunteered to do it free of cost. He will be assisted by two juniors,” said a police officer.