NEW DELHI — Protests over a recent gang rape quickly gained force over the weekend, tapping into long-standing fury against entrenched corruption and lopsided justice, and leading to clashes with the police.
Seven days of demonstrations peaked Sunday, as thousands of people joined women's and students' groups despite a hastily enacted ban on protesting in New Delhi. The crowds taunted the police and attacked the car of a lawmaker. The police fired tear gas and water cannons, beat protesters and arrested dozens.
"Many students who were protesting peacefully were attacked," said Jayati Ghosh, a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who had joined the protest with her daughter. "These are patriotic and respectable citizens. You cannot respond to them in this ham-handed manner."
Kulsoom Rashid, 27, rubbed her eyes and said she had been tear-gassed. "This is how they are responding," she said, seething. "Hundreds of rapists are running scot-free, and the entire Delhi police is standing here to stop people like me?"
By late afternoon Sunday, political parties had joined the crowd, increasing the number of confrontations with the authorities. Clashes became fierce.
After several recent, highly publicized rape cases, India has been struggling to come to grips with the scale of the vastly underreported problem. Even when rapes are reported, suspects are rarely found and arrested.
In the most recent case, a 23-year-old medical student who boarded what she thought was a public bus on Dec. 16 was brutally raped and beaten nearly to death by a group of men. Six suspects are in jail.