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'Decisions taken in a spell of emotions can be dangerous'

Last updated on: December 24, 2012 23:24 IST

'Decisions taken in a spell of emotions can be dangerous'

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The government of India has been rattled by the spontaneous protests by students and youngsters against the gang-rape of a 23-years-old physiotherapist in national capital New Delhi.

While India has risen to express solidarity in her tragedy, the government is trying hard to put up a brave face after failing to provide safety to its citizens.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Ratanjit Pratap Narain Singh, the young face of the United Progressive Alliance government, is trying hard to articulate what the young protestors want to hear.

In a conversation with rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt, he presents the government's defence, but adds that almost all women's organisations in country are against awarding capital punishment for the rapists.

How is the situation in New Delhi?

We have been working extremely hard to reach out to youth of this country. We want to tell them that we have accepted whatever their demands were. We do understand that this is a very emotive issue.

Emotions would run high on seeing such brutality. The kind of insecurity that it would bring is understood. Things were okay till the protests were peaceful.

We understand the voice of Indian youth. But sometimes decisions taken in a spell of emotions can work out more dangerously. We appeal to the young people that let us come to a rational decision.

We have accepted whatever suggestions youngsters have made during their meeting with the home minister, home secretary and with Congress President Sonia Gandhi. I was present in all these meetings. We have heard all the suggestions, we are working on all.

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Image: Delhi Police lathi charge to disperse protestors during a protest against the government's reaction to recent rape incidents in India, in front of India Gate
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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'We can't risk so many people's lives'

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Why did you not go to meet the protestors at India Gate?

We had taken a decision late at night that after Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's press conference I will go to India Gate to meet the young people. I wanted to share with them our progress. Most of the people were peaceful. But the police said that some 1 per cent of the gathering can create ruckus on seeing me and if something happens then they will not be able to handle the rest of the crowd.

Why would I not go to my own countrymen? Just because of the possibility of some anti-social elements' actions, we were cautious. We can't risk so many people's lives.

So dangerous was the situation in New Delhi!

Buses were being overturned and burnt. The stalls of Republic Day function were burnt down. Protestors burnt police vans. Our own MP, Sandip Dixit who wanted to reach out to students, was treated shabbily.

I was so keen to go there, but same time I could understand the police's version. We continue to talk to the protestors through our delegation.

Today, we have made a three-member committee under Justice J N Verma. People think that after their protests and all that hue and cry the government does not do anything. Here we have given the timeline. Justice Verma's report would come in 30 days.

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Image: Protestors throw projectiles at Delhi police officers during the protest
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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'People want quick justice and stringent possible punishment'

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What are the terms of reference of the committee?

All the provisions that deal with heinous crimes against women under Criminal Procedure Code will be reviewed again.

People want stringent measures against molestation, outraging the modesty of women, acid attacks, rape and eve teasing.

We will see what Justice Verma recommends.

People want quick justice and stringent possible punishment against perpetrators of the bus gang-rape victim.

We will run the trial under fast-track courts. We will hear the case daily. We will ensure that a strong case is put up against those seven culprits so that they get the rarest of rear punishment (death penalty).

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit will meet High Court Chief Justice Justice Darmar Murugesan to set up the fast-track court for the case.

Lots of people have met Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. They have received many suggestions. We are working on it.

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Image: Students hold up placards as they chant anti-police slogans as they form a line in front of the cordon at Raisina Hill
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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'We have done whatever people asked us to do'

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Don't you think the protest by the students was a result of the failure of the State? There is a lack of credibility in national leadership. People are disbelieving the government.

We have done whatever people asked us to do. I believe the protest at India Gate was spontaneous. We have quickly arrested those seven people (accused in the gang-rape cae). But I do understand what the people are talking about, from where the emotion is coming from. It was the horrific, barbaric case that happened with that 23-year-old girl.

The emotions erupted over the manner the streets of New Delhi have become unsafe for girls. Actually, the women wanted to make a point. 

It was the brutality of this case that made other women who travel in buses and trains late at night unsafe. It is upon us now. We have made a commitment to increase safety.

Who is responsible for whatever has happened with her? She will raise that question when she gets alright

If there was enough patrolling... my minister has already stated on the floor of the House that the most stringent action will be taken if any police officer or individual connected with this case is found guilty. We need to increase patrolling. We need to sensitise the police. That is why our women feel insecure in the city.

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Image: Delhi Police lathi charge to disperse protestors
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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'Why should somebody resort to violence again?'

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Raisina Hill today looks like a fortress. Why is the government so rattled?

We have apologised to the people who have been hurt. But we have to keep things in perspective.

There is a policeman, who is critically injured. If something happens to him, what do I tell his family?

Some 18 police officers are among those injured.

Why have such a situation again? Why is there a congregation at this place? Why should somebody resort to violence again? We have heard their protests. We have taken many actions. They are allowed them to protest at Jantar Mantar. There are protests going on there.

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Image: A protestor begs for mercy as Delhi Police lathi charge during the protest at Raisina Hill
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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'Sonia empathised with the kind of problems and insecurity that women feel'

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Do you agree with Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's contention that, "because Delhi police is not under her" she can't be blamed?

She should not be blamed for any shortcoming in the police because they don't report to her. But because she is a chief minister and she is the face of Delhi, people will blame her. That's something that is unfortunate.

Under which circumstances did Sonia Gandhi decide to meet the protestors? Why did Rahul Gandhi not meet them first?

There were people protesting outside her house. She herself asked them to meet her at half past midnight. She understood the pain that the women feel when they travel at night.

She empathised with the kind of problems and insecurity that women feel.

The protestors talked about many points. Their main demand was that there should be strict punishment. They wanted "tatkal justice" in all such rape cases as a deterrent. 

They wanted justice in a fixed time-frame. They also said that there should be dedicated telephone lines for women to complain.

In dark areas, more PCR vans should be patrolling the roads. They wanted a telephone directory of convicted sexual offenders so that people know what they have done. So many are convicted, but most people do not know about it.

In the United States, they have to keep a board stating, 'I am a sexual offender'. People also told Sonia that the sexual offenders should not get a government job.

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Image: A protestors chants slogans as she braces herself against the spray fired from police water canons
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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'Women groups against death penalty for rapists'

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What's the message to the political class from India gate?

I think there is a message to the people of this country. The government in power definitely has to take stronger measures to ensure the safety of women and punish the culprits.

There was also the message to change the mindset of the men. They narrated how they are sexually harassed everyday while travelling in buses.

Don't you think you could have handled the event better?

I thought we were handling it well. What an emotive issue it was! The government was listening to it until lumpen elements tried to make it a violent protest. We feel sorry about it. We were agreeing with the people because it was such a loud and clear message.

There is a demand of death sentence for rapists? What's the hurdle in making such a law?

That's why we made the Justice Verma committee. All women organisations are of the opinion that there should not be a provision of death penalty in rape cases. Let the accused suffer for the whole life. We have made the amendment to make it a life term, which is pending before Parliament. But now we will discuss the new demand.

How is the health of the victim?

The medical team is looking after her. They are trying their best. We can only hope and pray that she gets better. The reports tell us that even in this condition her spirit is up.


Image: Sudents chant slogans as they hold up placards during the protest
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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