New Delhi: Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm, hundreds of people gathered in the city centre Monday demanding "justice" to the gang-rape victim here. Shouting "We Want Justice", some 600 young and the middle-aged massed near the Jantar Mantar monument, watched by a large body of policemen who barricaded the entire area.
Protesters made it clear they wanted to demonstrate peacefully and did not want any repeat of the violence which left a large number of policemen and protesters injured Sunday. On Monday, police and paramilitary personnel laid siege to areas all around India Gate, where hundreds indulged in violence while seeking death to the rapists of the 23-year-old now battling for life.
Even journalists were denied access to India Gate, a World War I monument in the heart of the capital. The crowds at Jantar Mantar -- swelling by the hour -- included school and college students, people from the neighbourhood, and members of women's groups and NGOs.
"We need justice to be delivered as soon as possible, and we will keep protesting till that happens," said Shruti Singh, 19, a Delhi University student. IT professional Abhay Raj said he disapproved of the stone-pelting and violence of Sunday. "We're here to protest non-violently."
Others at the site held placards and cloth banners denouncing the December 16 rape as well as crime against women. Some shouted "Rapists should be crushed" and "Women want freedom".
Government employees entering Rail Bhavan, Udhyog Bhavan and other offices close to the India Gate lawns were given entry only if they showed their identity cards. The police barricading of the city centre and the cancellation of services by Delhi Metro to nine major stations led to major traffic jams.
In the wake of heavy police deployment and restricting the demonstrations to Jantar Mantar only, the agitators asked people to hold their protests in their respective areas. The agitated protesters raised slogans against the government.
"Where is the Yuvraj?" they asked in a apparent reference to Rahul Gandhi. As the crowd began to swell, with students from different schools pouring in at the Jantar Mantar, police tried to pacify them and asked them to register their protest peacefully.
A group of medical students from Rohtak in Haryana, who walked from Ramakrishna Ashram Marg Metro station to the protest site, demanded immediate action against the culprits in the gangrape case and asked the government to take necessary preventive measures to curb the increasing number of cases of violence against the women. They also criticised Sunday's police action against the youths at Rajpath and India Gate.
"Initially we were protesting at the local level. But when we saw how the police was beating up the protesters, we thought there is no point sitting there and decided to come to Delhi," said one of the students. "The way that the young girl has been brutalised is totally inhumane and the government rather than taking strong action against the culprits is targeting the protesters who are seeking justice. We want to know how long the women of this country will have to go through this inhumanity," said one of the protesters.