Caught as they were between the stony silence of an impassive government and the cynically simplistic demands of Opposition politicians for instant justice, it is hardly surprising that the leaderless crowds which spontaneously gathered at India Gate on Saturday and Sunday to protest the recent incident of rape in the Capital should have ended up in a violent skirmish with the police. Yes, lumpens looking for a scrap jumped in to take advantage and yes, the police did respond with mindless brutality against everyone present. But the primary responsibility for the turmoil surely lies with our national political leaders who simply lack the ability to understand and engage with a democratic upsurge from below, especially one that is not stratified by language, religion or caste. Confronted with the possibility of mass protest, the government on Saturday should have acted politically to assure the women of India that a serious national review of all legal issues surrounding rape, sexual assault and gender rights would be undertaken on a war-footing. Instead, its first and only instinct was to shut down the public transport system in Central Delhi and prepare for battle. When thousands of young women and men arrived at India Gate on Sunday having successfully evaded official attempts to restrict their movement, they found themselves face to face with a state apparatus that was not interested in a conversation.