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Shinde appears to equate protesters with Maoists

New Delhi: As the political leadership struggled to deal with public anger over gangrape of a girl here, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde today appeared to bracket angry protesters at India Gate with armed Maoists.

"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 Congress and BJP will demonstrate, tomorrow Maoists will come here to demonstrate with weapons," he said in various interviews.

Shinde said the people should understand the government's role and the government should not go anywhere.

"This will happen tomorrow, for any government. Why should the government go anywhere?" he said.

Asked whether he was trying to compare the protesters with the Maoists, the Home Minister said, "You don't separate it from law and order. I have already talked about it….Since the day they started the agitation, I had met them in my house, in my office…I met their representatives.

"After doing all these if they say we want justice what kind of justice will we give? There should be some limit, we have accepted all the demands," he said.

Shinde said that certain "political elements" were behind yesterday's violence at India Gate and its surrounding areas during the protests against the gangrape here last Sunday.

"We have information that some political elements were behind the violence. We are enquiring into it," he said.

The Home Minister said the Centre is convening a meeting of Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of all states on January four to take stock of the crime against women, particularly rape.

"The January four meeting will discuss the overall scenario of crime against women, particularly rape, and how to check them. We will also discuss how to fast-track the rape cases," he said.

Shinde said women belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes often become victims of sexual violence and the government would look into their grievances.

"SCs and STs live in remote areas so such crimes do not come out in the public. But we are sincere to provide protection to these under privileged sections of the society," he said.

The Home Minister said he met the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court today and requested him to set up fast-track courts to deal with crime against women, particularly the recent gangrape.

Asked whether the government has any plan to convene a special session of Parliament to frame more stringent laws for sexual crimes, he replied in negative, saying there was no need for a special session of Parliament.

"You will see our action, then you will realise. We have given one month's time to this committee (constituted last night for reviewing the existing laws). I will request them to give their suggestions as early as possible and we will act upon them," he said.

Asked whether Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar would be removed for alleged mishandling of the situation, the Home Minister said he would not like to talk on such an issue under the prevailing situation.

"Once the situation is calm and quiet, I will look into it. Certainly, I will take action and I will not spare anyone (found to be guilty)," he said.

Defending the crackdown on protesters, Shinde said on Saturday, the protesters went upto the North Block and even tried to break into Rashtrapati Bhavan.

"Rashtrapati Bhavan is a prestigious house of the country and it is the image of the country. If they would have gone there, you would have criticised me. That is why we are very strict on this thing," he said, adding hooliganism also led to the police action.

On the delayed political reaction to the protests by the youths, Shinde said both Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have appealed for calm and peace and were giving instructions to him to take necessary action.

"Soniaji was talking to us. The PM was talking to us. He was holding meetings. When we prepared the statements, he was part of those statements," he said.

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