Police in India blasted protesters with water cannon and tear gas Saturday as clashes broke out at a rally in New Delhi against rape, leaving scores of people drenched and angry.
The demonstration was prompted by wide public outrage over what police said was the gang-rape and beating of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in the capital last Sunday.
Her injuries were so severe she spent days in intensive care in a city hospital, battling for her life. Police said Saturday that she had recovered enough to give a statement to a magistrate from her hospital bed the previous evening.
Dozens of police, some equipped with bamboo canes, flanked the water cannon as it blasted out on to the thousands of protesters assembled by New Delhi's historic India Gate.
Some demonstrators attempted to break through the security barriers blocking access to the country's government district, parliament building and presidential palace.
Others chanted, punched the air in defiance and waved banners as the police sought to disperse them from Raisina Hill, the seat of Indian power.
"Hang them till death," read the placard of one protester seeking capital punishment for rape suspects.
"Stop this shame," read another. A third said, "Give them the same physical torture."
Shouts of "We want justice" also rose above the large and diverse crowd, symbolizing a widely felt anger over attacks against women. Banners proclaiming the same message were marked with a hangman's noose.
One young woman protester, who said her leg was injured by a blow from a police baton, lamented what she called a failure of democracy in the country.
"Today, I have seen democracy dying," she said.
New Delhi's police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said up to 35 protesters and nearly 40 police personnel were injured.
Thirty barricades were damaged in the course of the protest, he said, and police fired 125 tear gas shells. A number of vehicles were also damaged, he said.
Saturday's furious protest was just the latest held across the country in the past week, where official data show that rape cases have jumped almost 875% over the past 40 years -- from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011.
New Delhi alone reported 572 rapes last year and more than 600 in 2012.
Bhavyaa Sharma, a 19-year-old student at a leading women's college in the capital, told CNN how she fears for her safety when she leaves the campus. Sexual assaults on women in the city have horrified her and her female friends.
"I feel vulnerable here," said Sharma, accompanied by her classmates. "I am very sure about it. Delhi is not safe for women."
Six suspects, including the bus driver and a minor, have now been arrested in connection with Sunday's rape.
As fury about the assault gathered pace, some Indian lawmakers even called for treating rape as a capital crime.
"We'll work collectively to see we make a law which is deterrent and preventive," said New Delhi's chief minister, Sheila Dikshit.
India's Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters Saturday that the government would work toward increasing punishment in "rarest of the rare" rape cases.
But pressed on whether the administration would agree to demands for death by hanging in such instances, he said: "We'll have to see in what way it (the rape sentencing) can be enhanced."
Shinde said the government was pushing for a speedy trial for the attack.
Authorities are also taking a number of steps to improve security for women in New Delhi, particularly on public transport, he said.
"(The) government shares the widespread concern and support that has been expressed throughout society for the girl who has so suffered. Government also respects the right of legitimate protest," he said.