New Delhi: Authorities shut down roads in the heart of India's capital on Monday to put an end to demonstrations against the brutal gang-rape of a woman on a moving bus.
Thousands of armed police and paramilitary troops blocked roads in central New Delhi to prevent protesters from marching to the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. A small group of demonstrators gathered at a venue about a kilometer away from India's parliament to press the government to ensure the security of women in the city.
The city ground to a halt as commuters found themselves caught in massive traffic jams after most roads in central Delhi were barricaded by police.
Barricades were placed at Parliament Street, Rajpath and Vijay Chowk in central Delhi where the protestors had been converging over the past week.
On the other hand, unaware that nine Metro stations would stay shut on Monday, hundreds of commuters got a rude shock in the morning, unable to emerge from or enter several metro stations in central Delhi. The decision to shut these stations was taken after protests in the heart of the capital turned violent on Sunday.
"Entry and exit of commuters at Metro stations at Pragati Maidan, Mandi House, Barakhamba Road, Rajiv Chowk, Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhavan, Race Course and Khan Market was disallowed from early morning as per instructions from Delhi Police," a Metro official said.
Rajiv Chowk Metro station alone sees a footfall of about five lakh commuters a day. Office-goers who routinely use the station found themselves having to get off elsewhere.
However, commuters were allowed to change trains at both Rajiv Chowk and Central Secretariat.
As metro stations were shut Sunday, there was chaos and buses plied at full capacity.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm and promised that the government would take tough action to prevent crimes against women. There has been outrage across India over the Dec. 16 rape that left the young woman in critical condition in a hospital.
"Anger at this crime is justified, but violence will serve no purpose," Singh told protesters.
He assured them that the government would "make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety of women in this country."
Police have used tear gas and water cannons and hit protesters with batons during the protests, leading to widespread criticism of authorities for the use of excessive force.
The demonstrations have continued despite repeated promises by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde that he will consider protesters' demands that all six suspects who have been arrested following the attack face the death penalty.