New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday said that she was as distressed as the rest of the nation over the tragic death of the 23-year-old gang raped woman in Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital after battling for survival for 13 days, and added that every effort would be made to punish the guilty at the earliest.
In a nationally televised speech, Sonia called for calm, while saying that she shared the pain of the angry general public over the tragedy.
She described the unnamed dead woman's battle for life as brave, and added that her tragic demise would never be forgotten and that her fight would not be in vain.
Gandhi's speech came even as tens of hundreds of students and other activists protested silently and took part in a march from Munirka to Janta Mantar over the incident.
Elsewhere, activists gathered and called for intensfying the protest to make the government come out with a fast-tracked plan to improve the laws related to criminal assault and rape to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
Security has been stepped up in and around New Delhi and Section 144 has been clamped in and around the national capital. At least 28 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed. Ten metro stations, including Rajiv Chowk, Central Secretariat, Mandi House, Pragati Maidan, Barakhamba and even Khan Market, have been closed to restrict movement of protesters towards the main protest areas.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had to return empty handed from Jantar Mantar on Saturday afternoon after protestors blocked her from entering the area.
Dikshit went to Jantar Mantar to talk to people who are holding silent protest there following the death of the 23-year-old Delhi gang rape victim.
The Chief Minister visited the site to light a candle in the memory of the gang-rape victim, but angry people started shouting slogans against her.
Earlier on Saturday morning, reacting to the move by the police to close down key areas of the city, including the central part of the capital comprising India Gate and Raisina Hill, the television channel Zee News quoted highly placed sources, as saying: "The Chief Minister feels there should not be any restrictions on holding peaceful demonstrations in and around India Gate."
They said Dikshit's views have been conveyed to Shinde. A large number of police personnel were deployed at Rajpath, the stretch connecting India Gate and Raisina Hill where large scale protests were witnessed last weekend.
Ten Metro stations in Central Delhi were closed down for an indefinite period, as a precautionary measure by Delhi Police to prevent protesters from reaching India Gate.
The Central and Delhi Governments had earlier on Saturday issued orders for beefing up of security in key areas of the national capital, in anticipation of widespread protests over the death of the 23-year-old medical student.
The girl, who was admitted to Singapore's well-known multi-organ transplant facility-Mount Elizabeth Hospital - earlier this week in an extremely critical condition, died at 4:45 a.m. Singapore time (2:15 a.m. IST).
The body of the victim will be flown to India by a special chartered aircraft this afternoon, announced Indian High Commissioner to Singapore T.C.A. Raghavan.