NEW DELHI: As the scale and scope of mass protests in Delhi over the mass rape of a 23-year-old snowballed on Christmas Eve, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh added needless fuel to the raging fire.
Shinde, in a remark immediately condemned as thoughtless and insensitive, compared the student protestors to armed Maoists, while the prime minister's address to the nation reassuring safety to women was seen as too little too late.
The government's insensitivity was amply evident from Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's statement that the students protesting this heinous act were wrong in marching to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
A defiant Shinde said: "It's very easy to say that the Home Minister should go to meet the [Delhi gang-rape] protestors. Tomorrow if Maoists demonstrate with weapons, will I go and meet them too?"
This infuriated the protestors immensely and they reacted sharply to the home minister's statement questioning how could the nation's home minister equate peaceful protestors with Maoists.
The protestors also expressed disappointment at the fact that the ruling party's politicians and ministers are not keen to meet them.
Shine however said Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had already met with the protestors, and they "should be happy" about it.
Meanwhile, social activist-turned-politician and national convenor of the Aam Aadmi Party Arvind Kejriwal too has blasted the home minister for his 'Maoist' remark, calling it unfortunate.
Reacting to Shinde's remark, Brinda Karat of the CPM too said she doesn't "understand this home minister."
Speaking to CNN IBN, the home minister said, "Everyone will ask of every government to go and meet the protestors. We should not go anywhere. Tomorrow 100 adivasis can be killed in Chhattisgarh or Gadchiroli, can the government go there? It is because this is Delhi that you want us to go there."
PM appeals for peace
After the police fought a pitched battle with enraged protesters, the government throttled movement in the heart of the capital, shutting roads and metro stations in a bid to restore law and order.
And in an unusual televised address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm after the weekend clashes in New Delhi and vowed to punish the rapists for their monstrous crime.
The prime minister, in his television address, said: "There is genuine and justified anger and anguish at this ghastly incident." He added: "I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety of women in this country."
The prime minister referred to the steps earlier announced by Home Minister Shushilkumar Shinde and said: "The home minister has already spoken about the steps being taken. We will examine without delay not only the responses to this terrible crime but also all aspects concerning the safety of women and children."
"Our government will keep you informed of the steps taken. I appeal to all sections of society to maintain peace and help us in our efforts," the prime minister said, adding: "As a father of three daughters, I feel as strongly about the incident as any other. We will ensure justice is delivered in the case."
Victim remains critical
Meanwhile, doctors at the Safdarjung Hospital said the victim's condition was critical but stable after undergoing a small operation.
The doctors also added that the 23-year-old girl is also on and off ventilator.
The woman's platelet condition has dipped further, from 41,000 in the morning to 19,000 in the evening - an indication of infection in her blood.
"She has now a platelet count of 19,000... her platelet count is fluctuating, and we gave her two units of platelets," said P.K. Verma, ICU in-charge at Safdarjung hospital.
Verma said while there is no bleeding, the risk of infection continues as the patient's platelet count is fluctuating.
"And because she was in distress, she is back on ventilation support," the expert added.
The patient had shown signs of "breathing distress" Saturday night due to which she was put through an ultrasound and a CT scan, which showed collection of fluid in her abdomen.
"The ultra sound and CT scan showed fluid collection and we decided to do a thorough wash with antibiotics and put a drain, to check infection and to drain out whatever fluid is collecting," said a doctor.
"She is fully conscious and communicating," said doctor, Sunil Jain, adding that the woman was being "made to sit up, and given a sip of water.. we are also doing exercises of her lower limbs and other physiotherapy."
What happened on Sunday
The savage rape and torture occurred on Sunday night, when the woman and her male friend boarded a private bus in south Delhi after watching a movie.
The woman was brutally and repeatedly assaulted by six men. Her male friend, who tried to save her, was also beaten up by the rapists.
Both the girl and her friend were stripped and dumped by the roadside near the domestic airport, after the nearly 40-minute ordeal in a moving bus, that passed unchallenged through five different police check points while the ghastly act was underway.