Capital rape: protests across India; Delhi cops get tough

Protests over the vicious gang-rape of a paramedical student on a bus in New Delhi approached a crescendo across the nation today. In the capital, angry people – many of them school students - braved water cannons, tear gas, and baton charges for the second day in succession as they tried to storm Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India.

Water cannons are not a joke in a Delhi winter, when a soaking could land one in hospital with hypothermia. But tellingly, protesters in various parts of the capital region, including India Gate, converged on Raisna Hill, where the President's ultra posh residence is located – but not because they were targeting Pranab Mukherjee in particular.

Their anger was directed against the police, who the average Indian feels are more concerned about VIP security than about prevention of crime or protection of citizens.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reportedly met home minister Sushilkumar Shinde to discuss the matter. But Singh maintains his sphinx-like attitude; there is no official statement from the Prime Minister's Office or the home ministry so far on an issue that has inflamed the nation.

Protests against the heinous crime were witnessed across the country, from Kashmir to Chennai. They were not restricted to the cities – small towns like Mussoorie and Nainital in Uttarakhand and Asansol in West Bengal, to name just two, saw protest marches over a long-simmering issue.

Rape cases are endemic in India, and few culprits are brought to book.

Minister of state for home R P N Singh sought to justify the measures used at Raisna Hill, saying the police had been asked to exercise maximum restraint. He told a TV news channel that police could not allow people to break barricades and enter government buildings.