What started of as a spontaneous, sincere effort to reach out to the authorities with pain and anguish over the brutal rape of a 23-year-old woman on Saturday was hijacked by anti-social elements on Sunday.
Protesters fought pitched battles with the police on Rajpath and India as both sides showed moments of restraint and rampage.
During the day-long clashes scores of people, including policemen, sustained injuries.
"We tried stopping them. But they pelted stones and water bottles at policemen. Some of them were drunk and were hurling abuses," said many students at India Gate.
The Delhi Police commissioner said the police used force as a peaceful march was hijacked by anti-social elements.
Police said 78 cops, including some senior officers, were injured in the stone-pelting by hooligans.
"As many 65 protesters suffered injuries. We cleared the entire area by 5.30pm and had to use 250 tear gas shells and lathicharge. A dozen DTC buses and an equal number of PCR vans were damaged. One vehicle of Delhi Doordarshan was also damaged," said a police officer.
Protesters were lathicharged amid tear gas shelling and use of water cannons. They damaged barricades erected for Republic Day function next month.
The main battleground was the India Gate hexagon, from which roads lead to all parts of Delhi. Similar but milder protests also took place across the Capital, including the Delhi Secretariat.
Trouble peaked at 2.45pm when protesters ran towards the Rashtrapati Bhawan on a lane parallel to Rajpath.
The police chased and stopped them, which resulted in stone-pelting and retaliatory lobbing of tear gas shells, lathicharge and water canons.
When they failed to disperse the crowd, the police at 3.20pm tried detaining the agitators but could not succeed. Several of them lied beneath the DTC buses for carrying the detained persons to the nearby police stations.
At 3.30pm, the crowd assembled in front of India Gate and intermittent skirmishes continued even as protesters damaged vehicles. At 3.40pm stone-pelting started from both sides.
The police launched a final assault around 5pm when water cannons rushed inside the India Gate premises and chased away the protesters.
By 5.50pm, traffic was restored at the India Gate roundabout as police deployment was strengthened. All roads leading to India Gate were cleared, as a fire tender doused flames.
Earlier, the police imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC in New Delhi district. Some protesters stopped East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit at India Gate, heckled him and damaged his car.
A case of rioting has been registered at Tilak Marg police station.