Public outrage over the in-campus rape of a six-year-old, learning disabled schoolgirl burst onto the streets in Bangalore on Saturday as more than 5,000 took out a protest rally in a show of solidarity with the parents of the victim.
They repeatedly lampooned the police for failing to identify the culprits and initiate action against the management of the school where the rape allegedly occurred on July 2.
Many of the participants broad-based the issue and highlighted the perceived failure the government and the police in handling a series of shocking rape cases that have made headlines over the last week.
Speaking of the July 11 case where a 22-year-old woman was kidnapped from her house and raped, only to be asked by the police to allegedly "tone down" her complaint, Bindu Ramanan (36), a Psychology professor, said: "Some people are asking how protests will stop rapists. I am here to protest against the police and how they have reacted to the rape of the child and the woman."
A majority of the agitators, however, were parents of children studying in the chain of institutions run by the same management.
One parent said, "My child was also abused inside the school by a staff member. But the media did not highlight it and there were no protests. I am here so that such cases don't repeat." There were many others in the gathering who claimed that their children (from other institutions) too had been abused during work hours. They shied away as soon as live television crews rushed toward them with cameras rolling.
There were some tense moments when the protesters refused to disperse until police commissioner Raghavendra Auradkar addressed them on the spot.
When Auradkar finally reached the spot, his assurances did not entirely convince them. He left the venue after accepting a memorandum from the parents demanding speedy investigation, action against the school management and the inclusion of sections from the POSCO Act, 2012.
"The accused are yet to be identified. The CCTV cameras on campus are old and that's hampering our investigation. There was also a lot of delay...nearly 12 days. We request the public to give us two more days. A hurried investigation will only spoil the case," he later told reporters.
Saturday's massive rally was the culmination of many smaller anti-rape agitations over the week which resonated inside the legislature and put the government on the mat.
Already smarting from the incident where a ruling party MLA allegedly slapped a policeman at a pub and a land scam involving energy minister DK Shivakumar, the government faced repeated disruptions in the House from a combative BJP.
Chief minister Siddaramaiah's snooze when the issue was being discussed in the House of Friday further eroded the government's image – an incident that was given blanket coverage by local TV channels.
As part of a damage-control exercise, the government is planning to notify a set of rules for safety and security of children in schools early next week, sources revealed.
More such protests have been planned by a range of political and non-political organisations in the coming days.