New Delhi, Dec. 23: Moments after Nishi Verma ran from a phalanx of policemen who were swinging batons and lobbing tear gas shells, she knelt beside a fallen constable and helped carry him into a van that rushed him for medical aid.
Verma, 23, who spent three hours today at protests sparked by last Sunday’s gang rape of a 23-year old woman in Delhi, found herself and two friends playing Good Samaritans to a constable who had collapsed while chasing stone-pelting protesters.
Most of the policemen continued to chase the agitators. But while one colleague removed the fallen constable’s shoes and unbuttoned his shirt, Verma and her two room-mates, Deep Shikha Singh and Shubangi Agarwal, tried to provide first aid, looking for a pulse, tapping his chest and shouted for an ambulance.
“Quick, quick, take him to a hospital fast,” Singh said as the police van took him away.
Then, her anger returned. “This is what happens when you beat up innocent people,” Singh, an 18-year-old Delhi University student, shouted at another line of baton-wielding policemen who turned up after the van had left.
The three room-mates said they decided to join the protests next to India Gate today to support what they hope is a campaign to change India’s law against rape as well as the status of women in society.
“I don’t think hanging is the solution. What I would like to see is faster and effective justice, and greater respect for girls and women,” said Singh, who completed high school in Dhanbad before moving to Delhi.
“We don’t feel safe in the capital,” said Verma, who grew up in Lucknow and studied MTech in biotechnology in Chennai before joining a private company in Delhi. “My parents are asking me to take up a job in Lucknow, but I want to continue here.”
Before the police charged at the crowd, the three friends sat amid a gathering of several hundred people listening to speaker after speaker complaining about police inaction and slow justice, and demanding the death sentence for rapists.
“Society and parents will also have to change,” said Agarwal, a BCom graduate from Moradabad who is now pursuing a company secretary programme in Delhi. “Parents should not tell their daughters to dress well, they should teach their sons to respect women.”
The three friends say they would like to see the law changed for severe punishment for convicted rapists. “Rape has long-term consequences on the victim,” said one of the girls. “Castration would be the ideal punishment.”
Delhi police officials said a constable named Subhash Tomar was injured during the clash at India Gate and is under treatment at a government hospital. It wasn’t clear whether this was the same constable whom the three girls had helped.