NEW DELHI: Thousands of people cutting across ages and social strata on Saturday took to the streets in peaceful marches and protests across the country to mourn the death of the 23-year-old gang-rape victim whose fate triggered an outpouring of pent-up grief and anger.
Hundreds of protesters, seething in rage and anguish, demanded capital punishment for the rape accused while others sought justice.
Mourners, many of them carrying candles and black clothes pasted across their mouths, marched along the main thoroughfares of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore and several other parts of the country.
The demonstrations in Delhi were peaceful, unlike last weekend, when the police had charged with batons, fired water cannons and teargas in clashes with protesters.
In one of the protests in the national capital, students of Jawaharlal Nehru University marched from their campus to the bus stop in Munirka locality in South Delhi from where the girl had boarded the bus in which she was gangraped and brutally assaulted on December 16 allegedly by six men.
The students announced they will hold a night vigil at the same spot on New Year Eve demanding strong laws to punish sexual offenders.
Activists of Left parties took out a peace march from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar led by CPI-M politburo member Ms Brinda Karat who said there was a need for fixing accountability in order to prevent recurrence of the incident.
At Jantar Mantar, where people started gathering since morning, mourners sat on a silent protest. Later there were sloganeering and demands for immediate punishment for the rape culprits.
Activist-turned-politician Mr Arvind Kejriwal and his associates Mr Manish Sisodia and Mr Kumar Vishwas also joined the protest along with some of their supporters with their mouth tied with black cloth.
The Delhi Chief Minister, Ms Sheila Dikshit faced public anger forcing her to beat a hasty retreat from Jantar Mantar where she had gone to join the mourners.
A sizeable area in downtown Delhi was plunged into a security lockdown with India Gate and the Raisina Hills a strict no-go area in the aftermath of the young student’s death in Singapore, drawing condemnation from protesters.
“The government is not even allowing mourning of the death. This is insensitivity. There is complete lockdown. You have the metro stations shut. You have a road completely blocked. This is undemocratic,” fumed a protester.
Members of women groups, cultural outfits and civil rights activists joined in mourning marches in different parts of Mumbai where actress-activist ms Shabana Azmi walked in a silent protest march from Juhu beach to Kaifi Azmi Park and termed the death of the girl as a “clarion call” to rise against prevention of crimes against women.
“We cannot let the anger pass. It will be a greater betrayal. We have to do some soul searching.”
It was, however, the Congress chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi who articulated the depth of anguish when she said “as a woman and mother, I understand the pain. Her fight will not go in vain”.
Emotions ran high in parts of Karnataka following the death of the Delhi gang-rape victim with people, particularly women, demanding stringent punishment, including death penalty, for the perpetrators of the crime.
As the news of the death of the 23-year-old medical student spread, girls of various colleges took out a protest march in Karnataka.
In Bangalore, students of women colleges were in tears while expressing their ire over the rape.
Mourners, who participated in a candlelight march in Mandya, Haveri, Mysore, Bellary and other places, said the culprits should be punished in public, while others advocated capital punishment.
Women’s groups and cultural personalities took out marches across Kerala demanding severe action against the rape culprits and change in existing laws dealing with rape cases to ensure “maximum punishment” for culprits.