Hundreds of people shouting slogans for women’s safety in front of the iconic India Gate, hordes of police personnel armed with water cannons and bright yellow barricades, and the chilly Delhi air resonating with cries of “we want justice”.
The demonstrations on Sunday against the juvenile convict’s release were a throwback to the massive gatherings on Rajpath three years ago when thousands marched up Raisina Hill to demand justice for a 23-year medical student who was brutally gang-raped by six men in the Capital.
The protests that erupted on December 21, 2012 were unprecedented as people from all walks of life – lawyers, activists, students, housewives, professionals – came together in a movement that rocked the nation, shook the government and pushed through landmark changes in the country’s rape laws.
The numbers were lower on Sunday but the sentiment remained unchanged – justice for the rape victim.
The protests were joined by the victim’s parents. Her mother sat on the dusty road and shouted slogans, urging the government to amend the juvenile law to ensure harsher punishment for heinous crimes.
But as she braved the winter chill in the heart of the city, a few kilometres away, the juvenile had already been shifted from a correctional facility in north Delhi to an NGO-run shelter.
“I have been fighting for the cause since 2012. Then also we were shouting the same slogans asking for punishment for those who attacked the victim and after three years we again had to hit the streets. The government needs to give a serious thought about bringing in reforms,” said Mukesh Kumar, an activist.
The wheelchair-bound Kumar was at the forefront of the protests as he felt a need to raise his voice against the juvenile’s release.
The fervour of the demonstrations didn’t leave the teeming visitors to India Gate and many tourists joined the protesters.
“I am not associated with any organisation, but I am here as I support the cause. The juvenile should not have been released,” said Sumit, a student.
Like in 2012 — when angry protestors weathered a volley of water cannons and teargas shells — scuffles erupted between the police and demonstrators but prohibitory orders clamped in the area didn’t deter people from gathering and raising slogans.
But around 7pm, protesters were detained along with the victim’s parents — the second time in two days. But that did little to dent their resolve.
“We will not stop our fight here. We will now intensify our protest as my daughter has not got justice. Now with the juvenile being released, our three years of fight has borne no fruit. The government needs to wake up,” said the victim’s father.