Congress President Rahul Gandhi led a candlelight march post midnight on Thursday in protest against crimes committed against women and girls in India. He announced the march on Twitter, following similar protests across the country over the brutal rape and murder of a girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district in January and the rape of a teenager in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district.
Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra Gandhi were also present at the protest that was attended by hundreds of people and several Congress leaders such as Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni. “Like millions of Indians my heart hurts tonight,” Gandhi had tweeted before the march. “India simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does. Join me in a silent, peaceful, candlelight vigil at India Gate at midnight tonight to protest this violence and demand justice.”
At India Gate, Gandhi told reporters that this was a “national issue, not a political matter,” NDTV reported. “Wherever we see, women and children are getting raped and murdered. We want the government to act.” He said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s Beti Bachao (Save the girl child) slogan was a good step, but “we are telling Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he should get down to the job and implement it.”
Priyanka Gandhi, who was reportedly pushed around by some people in the crowd, told the protestors to “think about the cause for which you have come here,” PTI reported. “Those who are here to push around people must go home. Now please maintain calm and walk silently,” she told the crowd.
Here are a few visuals from the protest in Delhi:
Both the Congress president and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were at the receiving end of criticism for being silent on the heinous rape and murder of the eight-year-old child in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier on Thursday, Gandhi said the accused should not go unpunished. “How can anyone protect the culprits of such evil?” he said on Twitter. “What have we become if we allow politics to interfere with such unimaginable brutality perpetrated on an innocent child.”
The prime minister has so far been mum on the Kathua rape and murder case, which has been controversial in Jammu because of the support the accused has received from Hindu groups who even sought to prevent a chargesheet being filed in the matter.