Water cannons and tear gas should not have been used against thousands of demonstrators in the heart of Delhi in December after a medical student was gang-raped on a moving bus, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Tejinder Khanna told NDTV today.
The Delhi Police reports to Mr Khanna, who was traveling abroad when the capital was stunned by the brutal assault on the student. She died two weeks later. The Lieutenant Governor was ordered to return to India by the Home Minister, amid near-daily protests by thousands of students simmering with grief and anger against the police.
"My own view is that the use of water cannons and teargas should have been avoided at peaceful protests. I thought that was not called for and after coming back, there was a big meeting where the Commissioner of Police was and he also expressed his regret," the Lieutenant Governor said.
On the weekend of December 22, the police used water cannons, tear gas and batons against the huge crowd gathered at India Gate. Some of the protestors turned violent and set a car and wooden benches on fire. Others, outraged by an unresponsive government - no senior minister met with the protestors at India Gate- tried to storm the high-security area where Rashtrapati Bhawan and the Prime Minister's office are located.
The student-led agitation which asked for speedy justice for Amanat (NOT her real name) and better laws and policing to protect women in Delhi and other cities, has been praised by the Chief Justice of India, Altamas Kabir, who said "I salute everybody who took part" in the protests that followed the heinous assault.. I wish I could have participated in them, but I couldn't."
Justice JS Verma, who headed a legal committee, appointed by the government after the protests to review laws on sexual crimes, submitted his report to the government this week. "Youth has taught us what we, the older generation, were not aware of. I was struck by the peaceful manner in which the protests were carried out...the youth rose to the occasion," he said.
But Justice Verma was scathing in his criticism of the police for failing to accept responsibility for the multitude of lapses that allowed the gang-rape. He said he was shocked to see Home Secretary RK Singh praising the police days after the crime for moving quickly to arrest the six men who allegedly committed the crime. "I was shocked that the Police Commissioner got a pat on the back by the Home Secretary. I was so shocked. The least I would have done was to seek an apology for the failure of my duty to protect citizens," Justice Verma had also said. The Lieutenant Governor did not comment on that criticism.