Police fire tear gas after violence at Delhi rape protest


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Anger at the gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus grew in India as police in the capital, New Delhi, used tear gas and water cannon to break up demonstrations staged by thousands of people who were protesting against the crime.

Police with batons chased angry protesters, some of whom fought pitched battles using steel rods and rocks as they tried to get past steel barricades and a wall created by hundreds of policemen to reach the president's mansion to present their demands.

"We want justice," they shouted. Television footage showed that some protesters were injured in the clashes.Police blamed the violence on a few trouble-makers.

"A peaceful protest by people has been taken over by hooligans," Dharmendra Kumar, a senior police officer, said. He urged the protesters to go home.

The demonstrations continued yesterday despite Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde promising to consider their main demand for death penalties for all six suspects who have been arrested by police following the 16 December attack.

A group of protesters met with Sonia Gandhi, the governing Congress party chief, and her son and lawmaker Rahul Gandhi, yesterday to demand a speedy trial of the suspects.

Popular yoga guru Babar Ramdev stood on the roof of a bus during the demonstration and pledged support to the protesters. "The government must set up fast-track courts to punish the offenders in rape attacks," he said.

The attack one week ago has sparked days of protests across the country. The victim is recovering from injuries in a New Delhi government hospital but is still in critical condition.

After battling the protesters throughout the day on Saturday, authorities yesterday banned their entry into the high-security zone of the capital, which also houses the offices of the prime minister and defence, home and external affairs ministries. Police also evicted dozens of protesters who had spent the night there.