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Swati Maliwal refuses to end fast despite Centre starting process to include death penalty in POCSO Act

Even as the Delhi Chief Minister appealed to Swati Maliwal, chairman of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) to end her fast, she decided to stick to her demand of death penalty for rape convicts within six months and continue the strike. Maliwal was on the eighth day of her strike on Friday.

Addressing the media at Samta Sthal in Delhi, Maliwal said, "My demand for capital punishment for rapists within six months is yet to be met. I will not end the fast until it is met. It is not just my battle, but the battle of every Indian woman."

The chief minister's appeal to Maliwal to end the fast came after the Centre submitted a letter to the Supreme Court of India agreeing to change the laws to incorporate capital punishment for persons convicted of raping girls below 12 years of age.

In its letter, the Centre told the apex court that it has started the process to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), 2012, to ensure maximum punishment of death penalty in child rape cases where the victim is under 12 years of age.

 Swati Maliwal refuses to end fast despite Centre starting process to include death penalty in POCSO Act

DCW Chief Swati Maliwal drinks water on the eight-day of her hunger strike against recent Unnao and Kathua rape cases. PTI

But Maliwal told the media that her demand to get justice for rape victims within six months is yet to be fulfilled.

"We have seen that many promises made in affidavits submitted in the court of law remain unfulfilled by the government. We have no fast track courts for speedy delivery of justice to women. If the government is committed to provide justice it should constitute fast track courts," Maliwal said.

Maliwal's physical strength has deteriorated steeply over the past week and today she could hardly managed to speak. "She is unable to walk properly. She is using a wheel chair to move about," said one of her aides. But Maliwal claimed that she is still physically strong enough to continue the fast.

"Today doctors have conducted blood tests and have found that I am perfectly fine. All the parameters of my health are normal," she said.

Maliwal sat on a hunger strike in response to the brutal rape and murder of an eight year old girl at Kathua in Jammu and the rape of a minor by a BJP MLA and his aides in Unnao. Demanding speedy justice to rape victims she said, "If the government can ban currency notes overnight why can't the prime minister take some strict measures ensuring safety for women."

As the movement drew more crowd, with nearly 1,000 people participating in the protest programme led by Maliwal on Friday, her fast has become ground for much politicking and a rallying point for anti-BJP voices.

Politicians from anti-Modi groups and parties continue to visit her and express their support to her cause. On the fourth day of her fast, sidelined BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha visited and expressed solidarity with her.

On Friday, Ali Anwar from Sharad Yadav's faction of JD(U) visited Maliwal and suggested that a nation has to get ready for a greater fight against the BJP.

"A single rape case is seen as a blot on the nation's pride. But presently we can see a series of such cases taking place across India. The government has maintained silence over these issues. I think that there is no point in keeping much expectations from them. We need to get ready for a decisive political battle with BJP," he said.

Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala said that if the law of death penalty for rapists is accepted and enforced then the BJP will have a hard time protecting many of it's leaders. South Indian actress Rajashri Ponnappa also paid a visit to Maliwal and expressed solidarity with her.

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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2018 22:34:35 IST

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