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Gandhi was joined by his sister Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra as well as scores of Congress leaders, party workers and students, who shouted slogans against the Modi government and the state governments in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, demanding urgent action against the perpetrators of two heinous gangrapes of minors – one in Unnao (UP) and the other in Kathua (J&K).
Speaking to reporters at the march, Rahul said that the women in the country are not safe and demanded strict action from the government to prevent crimes against them.
“We are here to protest against the rising incidents of murder, rape and violence. We want the women of India to feel safe in the streets,” Gandhi said.
“This is a national issue, and not a political one. It’s something that concerns the women of India. Thousands, including common people and leaders from different political parties, have jointed the vigil. The government must take strict action,” he said.
Targeting the BJP over the incidents, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said that Modi government does not deserve to be in power.
“This country is outraged over the repeated attacks on woman and the repeated protection of the accused by the BJP government. The government would be thrown out if it does not act,” Surjewala said.
All arterial roads leading to India Gate were blocked for vehicles as a large number of people joined the late night vigil.
Anti-BJP slogans were heard at the march even as senior Congress leaders urged the people to keep it a “silent” protest.
The Congress leaders present at the protest march to the India Gate, which in the past has seen a huge protest in the Nirbhaya rape case, included Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Salman Khurshid, Ashok Gehlot, Ajay Maken, Sushmita Dev, Haroon Yusuf, Randeep Surjewala and Ambika Soni.
Azad said the Modi government was sleeping and those facing the biggest threat were the daughters of the country during the current regime.
Several Congress leaders also poked fun at the Modi government’s Beti Bachao slogan, saying the daughters were not safe in the country.
Announcing the march, Gandhi had tweeted in the evening, “Like millions of Indians my heart hurts tonight. India simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does.”
Earlier in the day, Gandhi had expressed anguish and shock on the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua, and attacked the BJP government in UP for failing to act against its MLA, who is an accused in the Unnao rape case of a 17-year-old girl.
How can anyone protect the culprits of such evil? What happened to Asifa at #Kathua is a crime against humanity. I… https://t.co/6E674ehsJl
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) 1523530565000
“How can anyone protect the culprits of such evil? What happened at #Kathua is a crime against humanity. It cannot go unpunished. What have we become if we allow politics to interfere with such unimaginable brutality perpetrated on an innocent child?” he said.
The Kathua girl, who belonged to the nomadic Bakerwal Muslim community, had disappeared from a spot near her house on January 10. A week later, her body was found in the same area.
A Special Investigation Team, formed to probe the incident, has arrested eight people, including two Special Police Officers (SPOs) and a head constable, who was charged with destroying evidence.
Jammu has been on tenterhooks since the brutal rape and murder. The city’s bar association has opposed the action against the accused and alleged that minority Dogras were being targeted.
Gandhi joined the protest near the Man Singh Road at 11.55pm.
The police had barricaded all the routes leading to India Gate.
DPCC President Ajay Maken said, “Atrocities are being committed against women in the country and the government is sleeping. The BJP is not only involved directly, it is also protesting in favour of the culprits and stopping law enforcement agencies from doing their job. It is a sad state of affairs.”
(With inputs from PTI)