Police fired teargas and used water cannons as several hundred students marched towards Rashtrapati Bhavan for the second day on Saturday demanding justice for the 23-year-old gangrape victim.
A boy, a girl and a traffic policeman were injured as the police directed water jets and opened a volley of teargas shells that pushed the protesters back a little even as some of the protesters braved the chill and threw waterbottles and shoes at the policemen. Window panes of a police van were smashed.
The protestors gathered at India Gate from early in the morning and marched through Rajpath towards Raisina Hill. They broke security cordons erected on Rajpath and managed to reach near Raisina Hill where they were stopped.
The police action came as ‘negotiations’ failed at the Raisina Hill leading to Rashtrapati Bhawan and the protesters, comprising largely young women and men, tried to breach the barricades to push towards the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The protest spot resembled a battle zone with empty shells and wet roads. The area has been cordoned off and police reinforcements have been rushed to the Hill that divides the North and South Block, which houses the Prime Minister’s Office.
Women protesters alleged that policemen hit them with lathis and declared they would launch a sit-in in the area.Protests refused to disperse from the place.
As protests continued for the sixth day, former Army Chief V K Singh joined the demonstrators the at India Gate blaming “systemic collapse” for brutal rape of a young girl last Sunday in a moving bus. An injured girl has been rushed to hospital.The former army chief said “You see this problem is because of systemic failure of governance. Police reforms have been lying in cold storage for the last so many years. Why haven’t they done anything about it? Why do we have to hear such things from a police commissioner saying that he doesn’t have man-power? It is shameful.
“Why do you have to see the spectacle on television where Ministry of Home officials have to go out on the streets checking things? Isn’t there a failure? This needs to be addressed. This failure comes because of political and bureaucratic apathy in this country,” the former Army chief said
The capital witnessed several protests on Friday also including the one in front of Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Water cannon was again used by police on the protesters a little after noon. Policemen fired 10 rounds of teargas shells at the protesters who had reassembled after the first round of tear gas shelling and water cannons.
Protesters refused to budge from the high-security area at Raisina Hill and clashed with the policemen and RAF personnel.
Ten students were injured and another police van was damaged in the fresh round of clashes.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Home Affairs R.P.N. Singh appealed to the protesters not to resort to violence.
“We have assured on the floor of House and every platform possible that strictest action will be taken against the accused. Police has been asked to show restraint but I want to tell boys and girls that breaking barriers won’t help (to solve the issue),” Mr. Singh said.