A protest against the rape of nearly three dozen girls in Bihar's shelter home turned into a major show of opposition unity in the national capital Delhi's Jantar Mantar on Saturday evening. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also joined the protest later in the evening, delivering a sharp message to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who broke his silence on the horrific crimes this week, saying the rapes had "shamed us".
"If Nitish Kumar is really ashamed, he should quickly take action... Prove it by your work," the Congress president said in a brief speech before the opposition leaders symbolically led a candle march to India Gate.
Mr Gandhi also took on the BJP-led national coalition at the centre, saying the protest was also aimed at seeking a safer environment for women across the country. "We stand with women of India, girls and their families who suffered in Muzaffarpur and elsewhere... And we will not step back an inch," the Congress president said.
Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, who had brought the party's protests from Patna to Delhi in an effort to chip away at the carefully-crafted reputation of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, accused the chief minister of shielding Brajesh Thakur, the 50-year-old politically connected owner of the shelter home.
Officials had earlier suggested that the Brajesh Thakur who ran several non-profits and even newspapers, had always managed to escape action due to the power and influence wielded by him.
"This is the chacha (uncle) who talks of good governance,... I am ashamed too," he said, taking credit for forcing the chief minister to spoke out for the first time on the rapes in state-funded homes meant to shelter.
Prominent leaders who joined the protest included Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nominee Dinesh Trivedi, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI's D Raja and Atul Kumar Anjan, and Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav.
Mr Gandhi underlined how the opposition had come together to stand up for what was right and promised, this was just the beginning.
"As you can see here, opposition is standing together.... This you will see more of it in coming days," he said.
"These girls were placed in the shelter homes to protect them from evil.... But look what happened to them," said Mr Yadav.