Prime minister Manmohan Singh spoke up on Monday after the brutal rape of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus. He announced a slew of measures to address violence against women. But an innocuous question — “Theek hai? — to his staff about his address provided some blushes for an embattled government. The recording went viral and evoked online fury with some saying that he was probably mocking the protesters.
In his address, Singh said the government will “examine without delay all aspects concerning the safety of women and children and punishment for those who commit these monstrous crimes”.
The lieutenant governor of Delhi, Tejinder Khanna, who was in the United States arrived and held
several meetings while protesters and the media were forced to Jantar Mantar with India Gate and the government offices at North and South Blocks being declared out of bounds.
Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, along with Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, met the Delhi high court chief justice at his home for starting the fast-track hearing of rape cases.
On their request, the high court agreed to an all-women fast-track court to hear rape cases on priority. It also accepted the government’s suggestion to have a daily trial starting from January 3.
A three-member committee of jurists, headed by former chief justice of India JS Verma, was constituted to give recommendations on amending laws to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in sexual assault cases.
A special helpline — 181 — has been created for women in distress along with an assurance to set up a commission of inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, to review responses to this crime.
The declaration of the number was also goofed up with the government announcing the wrong number, only to make quick amends a little later.
Taking cue from Sunday’s massive protest and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s official lunch at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the entire area around India Gate was turned into a deserted fortress. As preventive measures, nine Delhi metro stations were closed down and all possible roads leading to India gate cordoned off. And the protest shifted to Jantar Mantar, Delhi’s designated space for protests.
On Monday, Jantar Mantar saw a smaller version of the past two days’ protests. Different student groups like the JNU students union, AISA, AIDWA as well as AAP, mingled with individuals who had come on their own.
Most were those who had taken part in the earlier protests, while others had come for the first time. They were registering their protest against the brutal manner in which they had been lathi-charged by the police.
Many groups questioned the inability of the government to engage with any of them. “Whom did Sonia Gandhi meet? They could have easily met the representatives from any of the groups present here, and then make a conciliatory gesture,” Ravi, a JNU student, said.
But despite the crackdown and the lathi-charge on Sunday, many were happy at the possibility of the situation. “I can’t believe this is Delhi!” Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, said.
Rahul Chowdhary who has been a part of the anti-rape protests since the beginning of the week had a sore throat because ef the shouting but he went on in a sustained manner throughout the day.
Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar tried to blame the media for “inciting the violence” and the hurt caused to women and journalists as “collateral damage”.