PM addresses nation: As a father of girls, feel the pain

A day after violent protests over the brutal bus gangrape rocked the Capital, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the nation issuing a fresh appeal for peace.

In a televised address, he said the government will look into the official response to the gangrape case as also all aspects concerning the security of women while asking people to desist from violence.

The Telecom Ministry announced a three-digit helpline number, '181', which women can dial in distress. The Department of Telecom said the number had been allotted for Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's helpline within two hours of her making a request.

Delhi Lt Governor Tejinder Khanna, who has been on a trip to the US, cut short his visit following a communication from the Centre, as per some reports and returned to the Capital as protests over the rape of the 23-year-old continued for the seventh day. Soon after his return, Khanna held discussions with senior police officials and women's groups to chalk out a plan for improving safety of women in the city. The Delhi Police functions under the Union Home Ministry and the police commissioner reports to the Lt Governor.

"As a father of three daughters myself, I feel as strongly about this (the rape) as each one of you," the PM said in his address. "My wife, my family and I are all joined in our concern for the young woman who was the victim of this heinous crime."

He also said the government was constantly monitoring her medical condition. He repeated what he said in his statement on Sunday night: that while the anger was "justified", "violence will serve no purpose".

The PM also noted that Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has already spoken about the steps being taken to address issues regarding safety of women in the country. On Monday, Shinde blamed certain "political elements" for Sunday's violence at India Gate and surrounding areas.

He also tried to underline the government's dilemma in a series of interviews. "It is very easy to ask the Home Minister to go to India Gate and talk. Tomorrow if any other party's demonstration goes on, why should not the Home Minister go there? Tomorrow the Congress and BJP will demonstrate, tomorrow Maoists will come here to demonstrate with weapons," he said. "...This will happen tomorrow, for any government. Why should the government go anywhere?"

Shinde added that while he understood the protesters' demand for justice, he wasn't clear what kind of justice they wanted, beyond what the government had promised and done. "There should be some limit, we have accepted all the demands," Shinde said.

He added that the Centre is convening a meeting of chief secretaries and director generals of police of all states on January 4 to take stock of the crimes against women, particularly rape.

Asked whether the government had any plan to convene a special session of Parliament to frame more stringent laws for sexual crimes, the Union Home Minister said no, adding that there was no need for it.

The BJP slammed the government over this, saying it will raise the issue with President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday.

Defending the crackdown on protesters on Saturday, Shinde said they had gone up to North Block and tried to break into Rashtrapati Bhavan. "Rashtrapati Bhavan is a prestigious house... If they would have gone there, you would have criticised me," Shinde told the media.

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