New Delhi: "We want justice". The cry continued to resonate on day one of the New Year Tuesday as hundreds braved the biting cold and gathered near Jantar Mantar in the heart of the capital to demand justice for the 23-year-old gang-rape victim and stricter legislation against rape and other crimes against women.
A crowd, of about 800-1,000 people, stretched out for about a quarter kilometre on the road leading to the ancient observatory that has become the centrepoint of the protests. People had started gathering from early morning to pay tribute to the physiotherapy intern, who was cremated Sunday, exactly two weeks after a trip to see a movie with a friend resulted in brutal gang-rape and torture.
Scores of candles were lit on the middle of the road with one poster saying, "Dear daughter, we are sorry we could not save you".
While there were some speeches, pressing for action against crimes such as rape, clusters of people sat around to vent their ire, chanting slogans. One huge cloth banner read "Give justice to Damini", a generic reference to the brave woman who continues to be unnamed and unidentified.
"Chemical Castration for Accused" and "2013: Make India Safer for Women" were some of the other posters.
While a majority called for social change and rebellion, some groups also chanted anti-government and anti-police slogans.
"I came here with my friends at 8 in the morning to remember Damini. This New Year, we all vowed to fight for justice for her and stringent laws to check crime against women," said Kirti Singh, a Delhi University student.
Some fine art students, representing various colleges, expressed themselves through paintings while many stood in silence holding posters.
The crowd included activists, students and professionals.
Many people appealed for introspection.
"We are collecting views of people on how to make Delhi safe for women and will collate them together and submit them to government. We feel each one of us should come together to make the country safer for women," said Dhiraj Gupta, a software professional.
Many said they did not celebrate New Year or considerably toned down the celebrations.
"My family members and neighbours decided not to have a New Year bash this year remembering the tragic event. We just wished each other and prayed for the victim and her family members," said Rajiv Singh, a college student.
At least two people are on hunger strike at the spot.
"I'm on hunger strike for the past four days. I will continue my fast until fast-track courts come up to hear cases of sexual harassment," said Babusingh Ram.
The Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti in collaboration with Women's Initiative for Peace in South Asia is Tuesday hosting an inter-faith prayer meeting at 5 Tees January Marg.
The 23-year-old woman died Saturday in a Singapore hospital where she had been flown for treatment. Her body was brought back in the early hours of Sunday and cremated.