Anti-rape protesters target PM, Sonia houses, victim stable (Roundup)

New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) Angry protesters staged a second day of demonstrations here Sunday to voice outrage over the brutal rape of a five-year-old girl — storming the barricades outside the residences of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The girl, whose private parts have suffered mutilation due to the savagery of the act, was in stable condition, said doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), adding she may not undergo any reconstructive surgery for now.

The alleged rapist, Manoj Kumar, 22, who was sent to 14 days’ judicial custody Sunday, claimed that a second person was involved in the April 15 rape in east Delhi’s Gandhi Nagar. But police have denied it.

Anger spilled onto the streets as demonstrators squatted on the streets, shouted slogans and scuffled with policemen over the rising incidence of rapes in the national capital, even as two more rape incidents were reported — of an 11-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl in separate incidents.

The barbaric rape led Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ask people to work together to end “depravity” from society.

Addressing bureaucrats here, the prime minister said the major concern was to ensure “safety, security and status of women in society”. He said the issues came into sharper focus after the horrific Dec 16 gang-rape and the gruesome assault on the five-year-old girl.

With Delhi elections slated this year-end and general elections next year, most of the protests Sunday had definite political overtones.

Activists of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party (AAP) attempted to storm the barricades of the prime minister’s 7, Race Course Road residence while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) women activists broke through two barricades outside Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence.

The Delhi Police headquarters at ITO in central Delhi became a rallying point for protesters, mostly from AAP, as they squatted on the streets and shouted slogans to demand the resignation of city police chief Neeraj Kumar over the alleged callous handling of the rape issue by police.

At AIIMS, protesters mainly from AAP and the ultra-left All India Students Association, held demonstrations outside the hospital on the main road.

In the afternoon, hundreds of BJP women activists marched to Gandhi’s residence, shouting slogans “Enough is enough!” and “Save the girl!”. They broke down two barricades and were attempting to break a third, when police stopped them. Around 100 protesters were detained for a while and later let off.

Around 40 AAP protesters were detained for attempting to break the barricades outside the prime minister’s house.

India Gate, the scene of major protests following the Dec 16 gang-rape, was out of bounds with prohibitory orders and barricades in place and Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed in the area as a precautionary measure. Hundreds of students affiliated to Leftist students unions and women’s organisations tried to rally there but were stopped.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, who has called for death penalty for those who rape minors, Sunday said the rape of the five-year-old had exposed the government’s “farce of security” following the Dec 16 gang-rape.

Taking a dig at Gandhi’s statement Saturday that it was time for action and not words, Sushma Swaraj said it was “all a show” and that people are not fools to be taken in.

Congress leader Digvijay Singh, reacting to her statement, said the rape issue should not be politicized. “Unfortunately the Leader of Opposition is playing to the gallery.”

Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit, without directly calling for the resignation of Delhi Police chief Neeraj Kumar, said: “A signal is sent out when action is taken and it is necessary that only an individual is responsible, but when you take action on a senior level then a message goes in the force that this will not be business as usual.”

Protesters have been demanding the sacking of Delhi Police chief after the girl’s parents, poor labourers, alleged police apathy over their missing complaint for their daughter. They also alleged that policemen tried to bribe them to hush up the rape incident.

Police have suspended two officials. Another officer was suspended for slapping a woman protester.

Delhi has witnessed around 400 rapes since the beginning of the year. The government enacted a stringent anti-rape law, providing for death penalty for rarest of rare rape cases, following the Dec 16 gang-rape which led to the young woman’s death.

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