NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Indian capital is once again witnessing people take to the streets to protest after the gang rape of a five-year-old girl, reviving memories of last December’s brutal assault on a woman that shook the country.
Although much smaller and less organised than the December protests which saw thousands of people spilling out into the streets in cities across India, over the past five days small groups of individuals, opposition political parties, student groups and women’s rights activists have come out waving banners and chanting slogans.
Most are criticising the ruling government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for failing to keep young girls and women safe amid rising reports of sex crimes across the country, but also demanding the death penalty for rapists.
Many have called for Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar to resign after allegations that his police officers tried to bribe the victim’s family 2,000 rupees ($37) to not file a case and after video footage showed another officer slap a female demonstrator.
During the protests, there has been heavy security deployed on the streets, underground train stations close to the prime minister's home were shut down and barriers set up.
Demonstrators over the weekend dodged police attempts to stop them protesting. Many have held demonstrations outside the central hospital where the five-year-old victim is being treated, outside the police headquarters and outside the prime minister’s residence.
There have been a number of skirmishes and some protestors have been briefly detained, but no serious incidences of violence.
Activists say police inaction in the case of the rape of the 5-year-old girl led to delays in searching for her and could have prevented the assault from taking place.
Kumar admitted lapses by his officers, leading to the suspension of three police men, but has refused growing calls for his resignation. He is due to retire from his post in July.
Social commentators say while protests against violence against women are becoming more commonplace, they are not well organised and often lack direction beyond coming out onto the streets.
They say all groups, individual citizens, women’s rights groups, students and opposition parties need to come together and agree on a with a holistic approach if they want to see strong action against gender violence in India.