Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, has appealed for calm in the capital, Delhi, and vowed to protect women in the wake of violent demonstrations against the “national epidemic” of sex crimes.
He spoke after police clashed with hundreds of protesters a day earlier in the Indian capital New Delhi over the gang rape of a medical student in the capital last weekend.
“There is genuine and justified anger and anguish at this ghastly incident,” Singh said in a televised statement on Monday, appealing for “peace and calm” as officials shut down roads in the centre of New Delhi – a city home to nearly 14 million people – in a bid to prevent further protests.
|Al Jazeera speaks with Kiran Bedi, a former police officer|
“I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in this country,” said Singh.
Police on Sunday had shot tear gas and water cannon, and used batons to disperse demonstrators, as the crowd at Delhi’s landmark India Gate monument defied orders banning the protests and swelled into the thousands.
Scuffles occurred between protesters and police near government buildings, with demonstrators shouting slogans against the authorities and throwing stones and bottles at their barricades. Angry protesters later overturned a vehicle and seized police vans.
At least 30 people, including several policemen, have been treated for injuries at a nearby hospital, officials said.
“Security has been tightened in the heart of New Delhi, with police in riot gear in every area of possible demonstration. Section 144, a criminal code that prohibits assembly of more than five people, has been imposed,” reported Al Jazeera’s Subina Shrestha in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, two senior policemen have been suspended in connection to the gang rape.
Officials say they failed to carry out their duties as the bus, where the attack took place, passed through several police barricades.
A delegation of protesters met Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the ruling Congress party, to convey their demands.
The gang rape of the 23-year-old on a bus has sparked public outrage across India, bringing thousands of people onto city streets. Marches, demonstrations and candlelight vigils have spread during the past week.
Six drunk men were joyriding in a bus when they picked up the physiotherapy student and her 28-year-old male companion last Sunday. They took turns raping her before throwing the pair off the speeding vehicle. During her ordeal the victim suffered serious intestinal injuries from being beaten with an iron rod.
She remains in critical condition on respiratory support, but is responding to treatment, doctors said on Sunday.
Five of the suspects in the case were arrested soon after the crime and a sixth was caught on Friday, the Press Trust of India reported.
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.
Journalist shot dead
Meanwhile, in a separate incident at a rally against the sexual assault of a film actress in the country’s northeast on Sunday, a television journalist was shot dead by police.
Thangjam Dijamani, was killed in Imphal, capital of Manipur state, after police opened fire on the rally, police spokesperson A Singh told the AFP news agency.
Police reportedly fired on protesters when they attempted to torch a police bus.