Jantar Mantar, New Delhi: As powerful and venal as the Indian state is, its chief protesters today at his holy ground of dissent are powerless students who remain, however, unflinchingly and unbendingly true to their cause of justice for the 23-year-old gang-rape victim battling for her life at Safdarjang Hospital. You may wonder, as this writer often has agonized these past days, if these young girls and boys, fresh-faced, eager, idealistic, who have been brutally beaten by the Delhi Police, water-cannoned in this cold weather, and teargassed, round after round after round, who have grown hoarse-voiced from screaming for justice for the rape victim, would ever succeed in their sworn mission.

But the young are the young for what cynical adults cannot even conceive of doing. The young know it is a long battle ahead. They are streaming into the capital from all over North India, some from Aligarh, a group of student doctors from Rohtak, women in burkha with their own tale of rape, and they are not willing to give up. They have sat down in patience on the road braving Delhi’s heartless and heartbreaking cold, and they are in no hurry to give up their just cause. Across the yellow barricades stands arrayed state power, sullen men in khaki, ready to shed young blood, the water cannons are in place, and there is all the massing up of brutality that advertizes a government that has lost its moral authority.

Manmohan Singh: Of this government with lost authority, the prime minister has become a standing joke. At Jantar Mantar, the young protestors scoffed at his national address today. “He has woken up after seven days to say this,” said one vociferous student to thunderous applause. “He finally said what 10 Janpath approved.” Added another student, “Manmohan Singh is only interested in the stock market and the economy. We don’t exist for him.” From nowhere, a simian alighted on the scene, flitting from one head to another, leading a quick wit to suggest, “There is Manmohan. Running away as usual.”

Prestige- and dignity-wise, the prime minister has shrunk to the lowest today. His office couldn’t have been demeaned to meet the kids who were knocking at the gates of Raisina Hill. For all her faults, Mrs Indira Gandhi would have fearlessly mingled with the students, braved their antagonism, calmed them, and delivered some small initial justice, by sacking the inept and insensitive police commissioner, Neeraj Kumar, who couldn’t prevent the terrible crime. Because that has not happened, Jantar Mantar and growingly all of India not only wants Neeraj Kumar dismissed, but is also demanding the sack of Delhi’s worthless chief minister, Shiela Dixit, and the buffoon called Sushil Kumar Shinde.

Political class: Apart from this gang of three, the political class as a whole stands exposed and stigmatized by the tragedy. The President of India is supposed to be above partisan politics. What prevented Pranab Mukherjee from walking up to the students protesting at the ramparts of Rashtrapati Bhawan? The President is not above the people of the country. The protestors weren’t terrorists or Maoists as Sushil Shinde alludes to them. Why couldn’t Sushma Swaraj forgo Twitter for a while and go to India Gate? Was she afraid of lynching? Why so? Couldn’t an all-party delegation have met the students? They are children. They are the future. They are becoming disconnected from politics, from the good politics can deliver. Shouldn’t this political class have addressed this disconnection and brought the young closer to them? By their arrogance and selfishness, the political class has driven away the young. And not only that, they have turned them against the state.

VVIP police: The most hated symbol of the state amongst the young is the Delhi Police, which lathi-charged them without provocation, water-cannoned them in high winter, and teargassed them. Were they burning trams and buses as students did in the 1970s and 1980s, or hurling made-at-home gasoline bombs at the police? Not at all. They weren’t hooligans in any sense. They why the violence? How dare policemen hit women? “If this is what they do,” a young woman at Jantar Mantar said, “how can we expect them to protect us?” Another student from Delhi, well-spoken, peaceable, was barely able to stand, having been beaten on two successive days by berserk policemen. His back was ruined. He could scarcely speak from days of sloganeering. But for all his injuries, he was stoic, determined not to vacate his protests until justice was delivered.

Over the years, the Delhi Police has built an incestuous relationship with the political class, the VVIPs of Delhi who live in guarded Lutyens bungalows, and who couldn’t be bothered for the welfare and needs of the common citizenry, you and me. Delhi Police is strongly and overwhelmingly deployed for the security of the political class, and is rewarded in return with political favours. This is a case of the police and the protected scratching each other’s back. Sheila Dixit, in her anxiety to deflect attention from her own incompetence, is demanding Neeraj Kumar’s head. But even for form’s sake, has the Bharatiya Janata Party, the so-called principal opposition party, made a similar demand? Have Sushma Swaraj or Arun Jaitley, reputedly chums of the police commissioner, if you believe Ram Jethmalani? The equation is clear. The police protect the VVIPs. The VVIPs protect police jobs.

It is this VVIP protection racket of the Delhi Police which is at the core of the crisis concerning the vulnerability of women. In both Washington DC and London, great cities, political capitals of two Western powers, one of them a superpower, the police is under an elected mayor. The rough equivalent of the mayor here is the chief minister. It is true that Shiela Dixit has been demanding charge of Delhi Police. But what dissuades her from resigning now citing moral disgust at her powerlessness to protect women? In the end, she is playing political games. She thinks by the sacking of Neeraj Kumar, she will be saved. Hardly likely. After the police commissioner goes her job, then that of the dysfunctional Sushil Kumar Shinde. By the end of that process, the Manmohan Singh government will be perched so precariously on the edge of a precipice that a small nudge would send it hurtling down to thunderous -- and unlamented -- destruction.

Manmohan Singh’s non-government: Which is really only a matter of some months. If you notice, any spark lights a conflagration against this corrupt, incompetent and evil government, and the gang-rape incident is the latest. This government is perhaps the most loathed and reviled in India’s post-1947 history, and almost no one has a kind word to say of it. At Jantar Mantar, there was angry and robust articulateness against the government. Manmohan Singh was the butt of ridicule, Sonia Gandhi was not spared, and Shinde, Shiela Dixit, the lot, were uniformly trashed. There was widespread feeling that nothing would happen under UPA-2. “Where is the government?” a protestor rhetorically asked. “Who is the face of the government?”

The crisis, of course, runs deeper.

Rabid rapists not only roam the streets of the capital and elsewhere unmolested but are in power as well.

India is a raped state.