New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) When Rajesh Gangwar left his home in Bareilly's Uttar Pradesh for Delhi last week, neither he nor his family knew he would stay here for long. Nor did they have any inkling that he would be going on a hunger strike.
Gangwar, who reached Delhi Dec 24, has been on a hunger strike ever since. Babu Singh from Farrukhabad, also in Uttar Pradesh, joined him in the fast Dec 29.
The two are protesting the brutal gang-rape of the 23-year-old woman in Delhi who died Saturday in Singapore, and are demanding immediate death sentences for her six attackers, now arrested.
Both have been at the protest site at Jantar Mantar here, braving the cold with thin blankets donated by other protestors.
"I have been here the last four days. Rajesh is on hunger strike since the last nine days," Babu Singh, 40, told IANS.
Gangwar, who is in his late 40s and is visibly weak, murmurs that he wants the accused to be hanged.
"Our demands are very simple. All accused have been arrested. Hang them as soon as possible," he said to IANS.
"I have been seeing such incidents for so many years. It is so difficult to change the system, to make the government do something. This incident is so painful and it is very easy to punish the culprits, but they are not doing it. We ask why?" Gangwar said.
Gangwar and Singh's demands also include the death penalty for rape, fast track courts across the country for all rape cases, and three months' disposal time for all such cases.
"If the government can decide on releasing terrorists within hours, as in the Kandahar case, why can't they amend anti-rape laws quickly as well?" asks Singh.
Gangwar, who has a wife, a son and a daughter, said he had not told them about his plans to join the agitation when he left home. His son is studying engineering while his daughter is doing a post-graduate course.
"If I had told them, they would not have let me come. They are still insisting that I come back, but even if I die, I am not leaving this place till we get justice," said Gangwar, who is a farmer and also runs a medical shop.
"The meal I had at my home before leaving was my last meal," he added. That was nine days ago.
Singh came with his wife and four-year-old son just to see the protest. However, he decided to stay back and sent his family to a relative's house in Kanpur.
"When I saw the crowd was so angry, I felt the government would send its agents and violence would erupt. That would have spoiled the movement. So I decided to resort to Bapu's method and protest peacefully," he said.
Away from their families, braving chilly weather and hunger, they are being helped around by people they did not know a few days ago.
"We are together now though we did not know each other a few days ago," said Murare Kushwaha, who is from Haryana and is helping Gangwar and Singh.
The two have not had any proper medical examination yet, though they said a doctor volunteered to check them Monday.
The 23-year-old woman, who was raped and brutally assaulted Dec 16, died Saturday in a Singapore hospital where she had been flown for treatment. Her body was brought back to New Delhi in the early hours of Sunday and cremated.