Breaking his silence on the Delhi gangrape issue amid continuing protests, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday night said the public anger is "genuine" and "justified" but appealed for peace while promising all steps to ensure safety of women in the country.
He said everybody was concerned for the 23-year-old victim who was brutally gangraped in a moving bus on Sunday last.
Singh also expressed sadness over the turn of events that led to clashes between the angry protesters and the police and appealed for peace and calm.
"We are all joined in our concern for the young woman who was the victim of a heinous crime in Delhi. There is genuine and justified anger and anguish at this ghastly incident. We are constantly monitoring her medical condition. Let us all pray for her and her loved ones during this critical time," Singh said in a statement late on Sunday night.
He said, "I feel deeply sad at the turn of events leading to clashes between protesters and police forces. I appeal to all concerned citizens to maintain peace and calm."
His statement came as protests continued for the sixth day today and turned violent today.Assuring safety and security of women across the country, Singh said, "I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in this country. I seek the cooperation of all sections of the society to help us in this endeavour and maintain peace."
Earlier on Sunday, the peaceful protests in the Capital over the gang-rape of a young girl turned violent as a few hooligans attacked public property and police which retaliated with teargas and water cannons that led to injuries to persons on both sides.
Meanwhile, the gang rape victim was again put on ventilator after doctors at Safdarjung hospital subjected her to various tests as her condition continued to be critical.
Some hooligans on Sunday hijacked the peaceful protests in the Capital over the gang-rape of a young girl resulting in violence and attacks against public property and police which retaliated with teargas and water cannons that led to injuries to persons on both sides.
Police said one additional DCP, an ACP and a constable were seriously injured in the violence as protests at the Central Vista entered the third day prompting clamping of prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC in New Delhi district banning the assembly of four or more persons, The Vista is the 3-km broad avenue from India Gate that leads to Raisina hill where the PMO, Rastrapati Bhawan and Home Ministry among other offices are located.
The constable identified as Subash Tomar was admitted to RML hospital and reported to be in a critical condition, Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar said.
Expressing concern over the police crackdown against protesters at India Gate in New Delhi on Sunday, Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar said the incident was unfortunate but the situation warranted the action.
"It was unfortunate that we had to use force against protesters," Neeraj Kumar told television channel CNN-IBN.
"India Gate is a tourist place. It is not a site for protests. They are welcome at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan as they are sites for protesting," he said.
"Soeme anti-social elemnets have hijacked the public sentiments and the protests," he also said.
He added that a constable injured in stone pelting by protesters is in hospital and his condition is critical.
As many as 143 people, including 78 police personnel, were injured in the police cane-charge at India Gate.
The agitators were protesting the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in south Delhi by six men Dec 16. All the six accused have been arrested, while the victim is still critical.
Around 100 protesters and some media personnel were also injured in the violence, police said.
Police also resorted to lathicharge and lobbed around 150 teargas shells to disperse the protesters.
Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Dharmendra Kumar blamed "hooligans" for the violence during protests against the gangrape of 23- year-old girl in a moving bus last Sunday night and said unruly elements have "hijacked" peaceful demonstrations.
Delhi Police in its report to Union Home Ministry said that some "vested interests" had joined the protesters and were instigating violence.Protesters led by yoga guru Ramdev and former Army chief V K Singh clashed with police at Jantar Mantar, this afternoon when they were prevented from marching towards India Gate.
Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia sat on a dharna near Hyderabad House on Ashoka Road, close to India Gate. The youth outfit of BJP also took part in the protests.
Dharmendra Kumar disclosed that a former Chief Justice of India will constitute the Commission of Inquiry which will go into the gangrape incident, lapses by police and measures to be taken to ensure safety of women in Delhi and other parts of the country.
The girl was again put on ventilator after doctors at Safdarjung hospital subjected her to various tests as her condition continued to be critical.
Ex-CJI to constitute CoI
A former Chief Justice of India will constitute the Commission of Inquiry which will go into the gangrape case lapses by police and and measures to be taken to ensure safety of women in Delhi and other parts of the country.This was disclosed today by Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Dharmendra Kumar here today at a press conference during which he also said the government has also set up a three-member committee, which has former Chief Justice of India J S Verma as one of its members, to examine the possibility of enhancing punishment for rape laws.
He also said for fast track action in this incident, senior High Court lawyer Dyan Krishnan will be a Special Prosecutor and ensure that the trial is finished in a short time.
On the demand for action against those responsible for not why the girl could not be protected, Kumar said, "a Commission of Inquiry has been set up under a very senior retired Supreme Court Chief Justice.
"The former CJI is going to inquire into the entire episode as to why this thing happened and why it could not be prevented and what measures should be taken in Delhi and the rest of the country to improve the safety of women and also even to look into whether there were lapses or not," he said.
For enhancement of punishment for rape, he said the committee which was set up to look into the matter has Verma, Justice Lalita Seth and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam as its members."Within a short time, they will examine the possibility of enhancing punishment for rape laws," Kumar said.
On the youth groups' third demand for fast track action, he said lawyer Krishnan has volunteered to come forward as a Special Prosecutor and he will do a day-to-day prosecution in this matter and ensure that the trial is finished in a short time.
"All the main demands of the public have been met. So we have been requesting to maintain calm and peace and not be hijacked," he said.
Appealing for peace, Delhi Police blamed "hooligans" for the violence during protests against the gangrape of 23- year-old girl in a moving bus last Sunday night and said unruly elements have "hijacked" peaceful demonstrations.
'Public sentiments hijacked'
The Delhi Police on Sunday urged protestors to maintain peace saying that hooligans had hijacked their sentiments over the gang-rape and assured that a judicial panel would look into the brutal incident.Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Dharmendra Kumar said protestors voicing concern over the incident should avoid violence and maintain peace.
"Some hooligans are trying to turn the agitation violent by hijacking public sentiments. Public must separate themselves from these people. We are not against peaceful protest," he said.
The officer said that to find out lapses in the gang-rape case, a judicial commission committee will be created under the supervision of the chief justice of India.
"A retired Supreme Court judge will look into the Delhi gang-rape victim's case," Dharmendra Kumar said.
India Gate turns battle zone
The heart of the Capital turned into a battle zone on Sunday as thousands massed to denounce the brutal gang-rape of a young woman, with clashes between police and protesters leaving many injured.
Outnumbered police and paramilitary personnel fired umpteen tear gas shells and repeatedly used batons to break up emotionally charged crowds screaming "We want justice!" and hurling stones and water bottles.
By early evening, three huge bonfires had been lit near India Gate, a World War I monument whose lawns have been besieged by thousands since a 23-year-old was raped in a moving bus, leaving her battling for life.The more frenzied ones uprooted wooden barricades erected for the Jan 26 Republic Day crowd control and set them on fire.
Witnesses said several people, including security personnel, were injured.
But even as a section of the vast crowd indulged in violence, breaking police barricades and overturning a handful of vehicles, the mass of young men and women remained peaceful.
Many of them held hand-written posters and waved Indian flags. Some gave fiery speeches.
Unlike Saturday's equally massive protests, many middle-aged also poured in Sunday, urging the government to amend laws so that rapists get heavier punishment.
The violence subsided after some 90 minutes of running battles during which crowds charged at security forces around India Gate and retreated in the face of tear gas and batons.
"We hope these protests wake up the government," said Rakesh Kumar, a businessman in south Delhi who was at the site with his wife and two young daughters.
The younger protesters were more angry.
Pallavi, a 25-year-old working for a multinational, told IANS: "The government is sleeping... The law against rape must be stronger and should be implemented properly."
Delhi University student Hemant said the protests would continue "until we are assured that girls are safe in Delhi".
The foggy and chilly Sunday began on a quiet note at the protest venue, with only a small group who had spent the night present. By early morning, crowds began to pour in, shouting slogans.
The initials slogans, mainly condemning the Dec 16 rape, later turned anti-police.
Having barricaded all the roads leading to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and government offices close by, security forces sprayed water and fired tear gas at the crowds demanding death to the rapists.
Prohibitory orders banning the assembly of five or more people were clamped in parts of the city centre in a bid to prevent the demonstrators from marching to the presidential palace or Prime Minister's Office.
The continuing protests over the rape -- the victim is in critical condition at the Safdarjung Hospital -- found their echo in the political circles.
Sonia promises speedy action
Congress president Sonia Gandhi Sunday promised a group of young people that speedy action would be taken against the accused and they would also be charged with attempt to murder.
This was her second meeting with some of the protesters.
A huge crowd had camped out outside her 10 Janpath residence Saturday night. To the surprise of many, she came out past midnight, sat with them and spoke for some 20 minutes.
The day's protests also drew political activists. But most appeared to be people with no particular affiliation.
Amid all this, yoga guru Ramdev reached the Jantar Mantar protest site also in the city centre standing atop a bus. Later, many of his supporters made their way to India Gate shouting slogans.
Earlier, police evicted protesters from near India Gate but succeeded only partially.Many young men and women were grabbed and forcibly led away towards parked buses. But many slipped through.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit appealed for calm but said she did not approve of police action against the young.
Authorities shut eight Delhi Metro stations but that seemed to have no impact on the crowds.
On Sunday morning, she met another delegation along with Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and Minister of State for Home RPN Singh, who said the government was determined to ensure justice for the rape victim.
The day's protests also drew political activists. But most appeared to be people with no particular affiliation -- but very angry. Unlike Saturday, there were middle-aged too.
Ramdev joins protests
Amid all this, yoga guru Ramdev entered the capital standing atop a moving bus. He and his followers came in 20 buses and proceeded to the area near Jantar Mantar, also in the heart of the capital.The yoga guru has thrown his weight behind what began as a spontaneous movement of the young against the gang-rape and the thrashing of her male friend a week ago. The victim remains in critical condition.
Kejriwal seeks enactment of Sexual Assault Bill
Expressing solidarity with the protest against the gang rape of a girl here, Arvind Kejriwal- led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Sunday sought immediate enactment of the Sexual Assault Bill either by bringing an ordinance or by convening a special session of Parliament."The parliament must immediately enact the Sexual Assault Bill (currently pending before Lok Sabha) either through a special session of the parliament or an ordinance," AAP said in a release.
"We appeal to the protesters to maintain the peaceful and democratic character of this protest, despite grave provocation from police forces. We call upon this spontaneous movement to guard against miscreants whose irresponsible action may provide the establishment with the excuse that they have been looking for," it said.
(With inputs from PTI, HT, IANS)