New Delhi, Dec. 23: Congress president Sonia Gandhi has made a personal intervention as desperate attempts of the government failed to defuse the unprecedented backlash in the heart of Delhi.
Sonia stepped out at 12.30 last night when security officials informed her of the presence of agitating boys and girls outside her 10 Janpath residence.
She first requested the youngsters to go home as "everybody in the government shared their concerns" or come inside with her as it was getting intensely cold. However, as there was a big crowd, the Special Protection Group allowed only a few of them to enter the house for a dialogue.
After a brief discussion, when the protesters insisted on an action plan instead of mere assurances, they were told to come in the morning. At 10.30am today, the group of boys and girls returned to 10 Janpath.
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, junior home minister R.P.N. Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Renuka Chowdhury were also present.
The protesters stuck to their core demand for instant death penalty and chemical castration of the culprits. Rahul requested them "to think rationally as getting emotional was easy on such occasions", according to a leader who was present.
Rahul said everyone was anguished by the heinous crime and wanted the maximum penalty but "the government cannot ignore the due process of law" and "even the protesters should offer solutions based on logic instead of emotion and anger".
Rahul made a forceful plea with them to not commit the mistake of ignoring the legal system as the concept of instant death may also result in injustice in other cases. He said: "I am with you. The government is with you. Our concerns are the same."
Sonia, too, explained that "the government or the party did not control the judiciary and cannot dictate to the judges to award the culprits death sentence within a particular time frame".
She asked the protesters "to understand that the judges would decide the punishment on the merit of the case, not political diktat".
Some members of the group saw merit in the arguments and moved on to other demands like adequate policing, fast-track courts and strengthening laws, which both Sonia and Rahul accepted.
Sonia said "the government will immediately move to apply for speedy trial". Rahul conceded deficiencies in policing and the urgent need for enhancing the sense of security among the citizens. Minister Singh noted down the administrative points and promised to implement them sincerely.
The young group promised to communicate the message to the other protesters but the Congress leadership was sceptical of the outcome because of "political involvement" in the agitation.
Congress spokesperson Chowdhury said: "These boys and girls were very positive and very understanding. They were really agitated about the cause of women's safety and dignity, which we all are. But there are elements in the crowd who would try to foment trouble and divert the innocent movement."