After two consecutive days of police crackdown and a curfew-like situation in the Capital, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared on Doordarshan on Monday morning appealing for calm and peace.
But for the angry young protesters, the 20-smothings out on the cold Delhi streets, asking for justice for the 23-year-old gangrape victim and for their own safety, his mild admonition “anger about the crime was justified, violence was not” didn’t seem to cut much ice.
Even while the Prime Minister tried hard to establish a personal connect with the aggrieved agitators, some of whom have been at the receiving end of the Delhi Police’s batons and water canons, they defied the road-blockades his administration put up in and around Central Delhi to again gather at Jantar Mantar to resume their protest.
The PM said, “As a father of three daughters” he felt as strongly about this as each one of them. My wife, my family and I are all joined in our concern for the young woman who was the survivor of this heinous crime”.
Later in the evening the Prime Minister’s wife, Gursharan Kaur, too was cornered by the media. She said she wanted “the most stringent punishment” for the culprits, stopping short of asking for capital punishment.
But it was no less ironical that on the eve of Christmas, the Prime Minister was forced to address the nation not to wish but to assuage feelings of insecurity. But there was a weak attempt at an apology for the manner in which the city police cracked down on the protestors the past two days very near the Prime Minister’s Office, which resulted in large-scale injuries on both sides.
“We are all constantly monitoring her medical condition. Let us all pray for her and her loved ones during this critical time. I feel deeply sad at the turn of events leading to clashes between the protesters and the Police” near the India Gate. He said.
Subtly underlining that it was not just an issue arising out of administrative failure, but also a reflection of societal ills, the PM said, “We will make all efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in this country. I seek the cooperation of the society to help us in this endeavour and maintain peace”.
His attempt to reach to the young masses was marred by the inadvertent telecast of his post-speech question to his staff, “theek hai (Alright?)”. It led to another round of angry tweets.
Late in evening the Prime Minister held a meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to review the situation.
By this time, the curfew like situation around India Gate and Vijay Chowk eased a little with the lifting of traffic restrictions.