Indian police fired tear gas, batons and water cannons against protesters in the capital New Delhi as thousands demanded the death penalty for five men who raped a 23-year-old student. Some of the demonstrators sustained injuries.
Crowds of protesters attempted to make their way to the presidential mansion at Raisina Hill and then tried to break through steel barricades surrounding a high-security zone where the presidential mansion, the prime minister’s office and various ministries are located.
The protesters carried banners that read ‘Save women, save India’ and ‘Hang the rapists.’ Police cracked down on the rally after some demonstrators began to throw stones at security forces.
The clashes come after days of protests sparked by a brutal attack on a young student. Protesters are demanding the death penalty for the five suspects, who were detained following the December 16 attack. The sixth assailant apprehended on Friday.
The group of drunk men attacked the woman and her 28-year-old friend while on a charter bus that drove through the city for hours, even passing through police checkpoints. The assailants were armed with iron rods, and gang-raped the victim and brutally beat her and her friend. They were both then dumped on the side of the road on at high speed.
Doctors at the hospital where the victim was taken said she remains in critical but stable condition, and has been removed from her ventilator.
The violence prompted activists to demand that the government tougher measures to protect women from the daily threat of harassment and violence. General Vijay Kumar Singh, a retired Indian army chief, called for the training and arming of security forces to deal with the issue.
On Friday, Indian officials announced a broad campaign aimed at protecting the rights of women in New Delhi. The government also said it would demand life sentences for the woman’s six attackers and pay the victims medical bills, and promised stricter policing to prevent future such incidents.
Hundreds of students and activists blockaded roads in New Delhi on Friday and marched to the president’s palace, breaking through police barricades.
New Delhi, with a population of nearly 17 million people, has the highest number of reported sex crimes of all India’s cities. The number of reported rape cases in the capital has risen 17 percent from 2011, to 661 this year, government figures revealed. According to police statistics, a rape is reported on average every 18 hours, and a sexual assault occurs every 14 hours in the capital.