New Delhi: The government agreed on Sunday to fast-track investigations of sexual crimes and increase policing to prevent attacks on women, underlining its concern at protests triggered by the gang-rape of a 23-year-old student in a moving bus one week ago.
Congress party president Sonia Gandhi and her son and general secretary Rahul Gandhi appealed for calm as thousands of people took to the streets for the second straight day in the capital.
Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and minister of state for home affairs R.P.N. Singh met a small group of protesters at 10, Janpath, the official residence of the Congress president, and agreed to a set of demands they put forward, people familiar with the situation said.
To assuage the protesters, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) said investigations of sexual assault cases would be accelerated; police presence increased and patrolling stepped up; and plain clothesmen deployed.
The government also agreed to demands for the deployment of citizen security officers and installation of GPS systems in public vehicles.
In the case of the gang-rape on 16 December, “day-to-day trial, rarest of rare punishment and 100% justice...in shortest possible time” were the other demands that were accepted.
The torture and gang-rape of the student of paramedicine by six men has caused a rare upsurge of anger in the capital and other cities in the country, triggering street protests and demand for the death penalty for rapists.
Amending laws needs deep thought and time, Rahul Gandhi said.
“Decision-making should happen in a rational manner. Decisions taken cannot be driven merely by emotions,” he said at Sunday’s meeting with protesters, according to the minister of state for home affairs.
Singh said the group of protesters was assured that the case would be heard in fast-track courts to deliver speedy justice.
On Sunday, street protests took place for the second day in a row, prompting the police to barricade the entire area around India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhavan, blocking all roads to Raisina Hill.
The police, who have clamped orders barring public assemblies in the capital, used teargas and water cannon to disperse thousands of young people at India Gate attempting to march to Raisina Hill.
Early on Sunday, the police removed protesters who spent a cold night in the open in the area after fighting pitched battles with the police throughout Saturday.
Protesters led by yoga guru Ramdev and former army chief V.K. Singh clashed with police at Jantar Mantar in central Delhi in the afternoon when they were prevented from marching towards India Gate.
Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia staged a sit-in protest near Hyderabad House close to India Gate.
In addition to barricading routes, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation shut down eight metro stations in central Delhi to prevent protesters from reaching the area.
The victim of the gangrape has been fighting for her life in hospital after the incident. On Sunday, she was put back on the ventilator after doctors at Safdarjung hospital subjected her to various tests; her condition continues to be critical.