Last year, DCW chief Swati Maliwal had gone on a hunger strike demanding death penalty for rape of minors and setting up of fast-track courts across the country to try rape cases, along with other demands.
Hours after DCW chief Swati Maliwal began her indefinite hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar on Tuesday demanding capital punishment for rapists, the Delhi Police asked her to shift from the site to which she relented late in the night. The police had asked her to vacate the site at Jantar Mantar citing court orders, but Maliwal had dug in her heels and insisted on continuing it there. Late in the night, police officials and the DCW said that the two sides reached a consensus to move to Samta Sthal near Rajghat and continue the hunger strike.
Hundreds of protestors joined her — some of them activists and college students — protesting over the recent incidents of rape and killing of a 26-year-old veterinarian and a six-year-old girl in Rajasthan. The protesters were also holding placards with messages and demands — “Police uncle, are we safe?”, “Udane do parindo ko, phansi do darindo ko (Let the birds fly, hang the culprits)”, “we will not tolerate this anymore,” “Nirbhaya hum sharminda hai, tere kaatil zinda hai (Nirbhaya, we are ashamed that your murderers are still alive)”.
In the morning, Maliwal alleged that she was not allowed to start her hunger strike at the venue, while the police said they had sought details of protest from the commission and were awaiting it. However, Maliwal, after paying obeisance at Rajghat, reached Jantar Mantar around 11.30 am to start her hunger strike.
Even before reaching Jantar Mantar, she shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding that rapists be hanged within six months of their conviction. In the letter, she also urged him to ensure that Nibhaya’s rapists are hanged soon and there is a time-bound redressal of mercy petitions and increase in police resources. She also demanded more fast-track courts and adequate usage of Nirbhaya fund, besides stressing on digitising the police force and creating a software to fix police accountability in such incidents.
Hours later, she was stationed there along with her supporters even as senior Delhi Police officers cited a court order prohibiting protests at Jantar Mantar beyond 5 pm and asked her to shift to some other place to continue with her stir. The women’s panel chief and her supporters said in unison that the protest will continue till the prime minister agree to their demands. She also alleged the Delhi Police was not cooperating with them.
“Jantar Mantar has become a cantonment. They are pressurising us to leave Jantar Mantar. The DCP has spoken to us and assured us that they will give us space near Rajghat. Now I am thinking whether we need to move to Rajghat or stay here at Jantar Mantar,” she told reporters earlier.
Maliwal also insisted that her issue was not with the space but her protest was to demand a change.
“Delhi Police wants me stay in the cold and there are no arrangements for even a microphone or tent. They are trying to trouble me and they view me as a criminal. Whatever they want to do, they can. I do not want to fight with anyone. My hunger strike will continue at Jantar Mantar,” Maliwal said.
Chanchal Solanki (18), a Class 12 student, said, “We want the accused in the Hyderabad gangrape and murder case hanged, or allow the public to punish them.” Isha Jaiswal, another college student, said she got to know about the protest through media and came to Jantar Mantar to express support. “We want the government to give justice to the veterinarian and hang the culprits. They won’t be spared,” Kiran Khattar, a social worker, said.
The police had said that they were considering providing an alternative venue, including the Ramleela Ground, for the protest to Maliwal.
“We are telling them that there are certain guidelines for protests at Jantar Mantar. Agitators are allowed to protest till 5 pm and we are urging them to follow these guidelines,” Delhi Police PRO and DCP (Central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa said.
Despite several requests on a public address system by the police to end her protest for the day, Maliwal and her supporters refused to budge.
Last year, the DCW chief had gone on a hunger strike demanding death penalty for rape of minors and setting up of fast-track courts across the country to try rape cases, along with other demands. President Ram Nath Kovind had promulgated an ordinance to give stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below 12 years.