New Delhi Police Fire Water Cannon At India Rape Protest
After brutal gang rape India confronts rise in violence against women
By Harmeet Shah Singh Mallika Kapur and Laura Smith-Spark
December 22, 2012Police in India blasted protesters with water cannon Saturday as clashes broke out at a rally in New Delhi against rape, leaving hundreds of people drenched and angry.
The demonstration was prompted by wide public outrage over what police said was the gang-rape and beating of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in the capital last Sunday.
Her injuries were so severe she spent days in intensive in a city hospital, battling for her life.
Dozens of police, some equipped with long batons, flanked the water cannon as it blasted out on to the thousands of protesters gathered by New Delhi's India Gate, some of whom pushed up against the barriers holding them back.
Footage from the scene shows other demonstrators chanting and waving banners, or punching the air in defiance as police seek to disperse them. Shouts of “We want justice” rise above the crowd.
Men and women of all ages took part in the rally, symbolizing a widely felt anger over attacks against women.
Saturday's furious protest was just the latest held across the country in the past week, where official data show that rape cases have jumped almost 875 percent over the past 40 years -- from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011.
New Delhi alone reported 572 rapes last year and more than 600 in 2012.
Bhavyaa Sharma, a 19-year-old student at a leading women's college in the capital, told CNN how she fears for her safety when she leaves the campus. Sexual assaults on women in the city have horrified her and her female friends.
“I feel vulnerable here,” said Sharma, accompanied by her classmates. “I am very sure about it. Delhi is not safe for women.”
As fury about Sunday's assault gathered pace, some Indian lawmakers even called for treating rape as a capital crime.
The country's human rights body shot off notices to city police and federal authorities, demanding an explanation of the latest sexual assault.
“The incident has raised the issue of declining public confidence in the law and order machinery in the city, especially in its capacity to ensure safety of women, as a number of such incidents have been reported in the national capital in the recent past,” the National Human Rights Commission said in a statement Tuesday.
At least five people, including the bus driver and a minor, have been arrested in connection with Sunday's rape.
Meantime, some observers say anti-women acts in India stem from the country's largely patriarchal social setup.
Indians' preference for sons over daughters, for example, has manifested itself in a worrisome population imbalance. The 2011 census of the world's second-most populous nation recorded an alarming drop in the percentage of girls among country's preschoolers.
For every 1,000 boys up to 6 years old, the census counted 914 girls, a drop from 927 a decade ago. It's illegal in India to abort a child because of its sex, but such abortions happen, often aided by illegal clinics.
CNN's Harmeet Shah Singh and Mallika Kapur reported from New Delhi, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London.