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By Arup Roychoudhury and Annie Banerji
NEW DELHI Dec 23 The Indian government moved on
Sunday to stamp out protests that have swelled in New Delhi
since the gang-rape of a young woman, banning gatherings of more
than five people, but still thousands poured into the heart of
the capital to vent their anger.
Police used tear gas and batons to hold crowds back from
marching on the president's palace, just as they did the day
before. About 30 to 35 people, including a few policemen, were
being treated at a nearby hospital for injuries, two doctors
The 23-year-old victim of the Dec. 16 attack, who was
beaten, raped for almost an hour and thrown out of a moving bus
in New Delhi, was still in a critical condition on respiratory
support but responding to treatment, doctors said.
Six men have been arrested for the assault.
New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India's
major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours,
according to police figures.
Most sexual assaults go unreported and unremarked, but the
brutality of last week's attack triggered the biggest protests
in the capital since mid-2011 demonstrations against corruption
that rocked the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The protesters, predominantly college students but also
housewives and even children, are demanding more steps from the
authorities to ensure safety for women - particularly better
policing - and some want the death penalty for the accused.
Several metro stations were closed and many roads into the
administrative centre of the city were barricaded on Sunday to
prevent a build-up of protesters.
However, by late afternoon the crowd around the India Gate
monument - normally a festive place on a Sunday - had swollen to
Scuffles broke out near government buildings, where youths
shouted "Down with Delhi police!" and threw bottles at the
forces holding them back. Angry protesters later overturned a
vehicle and seized police vans.
GANDHI GETS FLAK
Since last week's rape, the authorities have promised better
police patrolling to ensure safety for women returning from work
and entertainment districts, the installation of GPS on public
transport vehicles, more buses at night, and fast-track courts
for swift verdicts on cases of rape and sexual assault.
However, that has not been enough to placate protesters in
New Delhi and other cities across the country, where the past
week began with peaceful candle-light vigils and ended with a
spasm of violence in the capital.
Bowing to public pressure, Sonia Gandhi, chief of the ruling
Congress party, emerged from her residence after midnight to
talk to protesters. She went out again on Sunday with her son,
Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as a future prime minister.
"She assured us of justice," said one of the students who
met the Gandhis.
Some others, though, shouted "Down with Sonia Gandhi!" and
accused politicians of indifference to the plight of ordinary
"It's time she (Sonia Gandhi) takes the bull by the horns
and make this country safe for women. Be it better policing or
strongly penalising offenders," said Rukmani Dutta, a final-year
political science student at Delhi University.
Protesters said they would continue to demonstrate until
they get firm assurances from the government.
"Until and unless the government understands the pulse of
the people and imposes strict action against these criminals, we
will not relent," said Sherry Kaur, a student at Indraprastha
University, also in New Delhi.
(Writing and additional reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing
by John Chalmers and Sanjeev Miglani)