Delhi Bus Gang Rape Sparks Angry Protests

Police have fired water cannon to disperse protesters angry over the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi.

Demonstrators outside New Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's official residence tried to tear down steel barricades after chanting "we want equal rights for women".

There has been an outpouring of anger across the country since the brutal attack that left the student and her male companion in intensive care.

Police are still searching for two of the six men who were on the off-duty school bus when it picked up the pair. Four, including the bus driver, have already been arrested.

The woman was abused for 40 minutes while her companion was fought off with a metal rod. The attackers then pushed the couple off the vehicle.

"Women are told that if they go out late at night, they will be raped," A female protester from Delhi University said.

National crime records show that 228,650 of the total 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year were aimed against women and rape cases more than doubled between 1990 and 2008.

Sunday night's attack was the latest in a series of particularly brutal attacks in the capital.

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh joined his ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi in condemning the rape as "heinous".

New Delhi's police chief has demanded the death penalty for the rapists, a crime that currently carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

"We will seek the most severe punishment of life imprisonment for the culprits and we will send a proposal to the government for the death sentence for rapists," New Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar told reporters.

Some politicians including Sushma Swaraj, leader of the main opposition BJP party, also called for rapists to be hanged.

New Delhi's Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde announced in parliament that there would be an immediate crackdown on tinted curtains and heavy glass in buses and has ordered increased police patrols on the streets.