THE VICTIM OF a gang-rape and murder which triggered an outpouring of grief and revulsion across India has been cremated at a private ceremony today as it emerged she was planning to marry in February.
The unidentified 23-year-old, the focus of nationwide protests since she was attacked on a bus in New Delhi two weeks ago, was cremated at a ceremony kept secret by authorities only hours after her body was repatriated from Singapore.
The funeral pyre was lit after traumatised relatives and friends said their final prayers at a ceremony in southwestern Delhi, according to mourners who revealed she had been due to wed a boyfriend who was injured in the same attack.
“They had made all the wedding preparations and had planned a wedding party in Delhi” for February, said Meena Rai, who was a close friend and neighbour. “I really loved this girl. She was the brightest of all.”
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the main ruling Congress party, were at Delhi airport to console her parents as they arrived home on a chartered plane with their daughter’s body at around 4:00 am (22:30 GMT).
After initial treatment in a Delhi hospital following the attack, she was flown to Singapore on Wednesday night where doctors were unable to prevent a multiple organ failure. She was pronounced dead in the early hours of Saturday.
Protesters with placards attending a protest today over the death of the 23-year-old in New Delhi (Photo: AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Her killing has prompted government promises of better protection for women, and deep soul-searching in a nation where horrifying gang-rapes are commonplace and sexual harassment is routinely dismissed as “Eve-teasing”.
Several thousand people massed again on Sunday in the centre of the Indian capital – some to express sympathy for the victim who had been out to watch a film with her boyfriend, others to voice anger at the government.
The body of the young woman is driven to be cremated in the early hours of this morning (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
Stringent security measures that have seen government offices and other public areas sealed off in New Delhi to prevent protests have been seized on by critics as further evidence of an out-of-touch government bungling its response.
About a dozen protesters tried to break the barricades that riot police had set up around the area, while a handful also threw stones and were immediately detained.
Waves of protests have erupted across India since the attack on the night of 16 December when the woman was not only repeatedly raped but also sexually assaulted with an iron bar, leaving her with severe intestinal injuries.
People raise their hands at a protest today over the death of the young woman (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Thousands took part in late-night candlelit vigils on Saturday after 80-year-old Singh, criticised for reacting slowly to the crime, led appeals for calm to prevent a repeat of the sometimes violent protests.
As police said the six accused of murdering the unnamed woman could face the death penalty, there was a widespread determination that the killing would serve as a tipping point for how the nation deals with violence against women.
“We are aware that this is not the first case, nor will it be the last case of gang-rape in India, but it is clear that we will not tolerate sex crimes any more,” said Bela Rana, a lawyer who joined a rally in central Delhi.
(AP Photo/ Dar Yasin)
The city has been dubbed the “rape capital” of India. A report in Sunday’s Hindustan Times said more than 20 women had been raped there since 16 December.
According to police and prosecutors, the ordeal suffered by the victim of the Delhi crime began when six men lured her and her male companion onto a bus that they thought would take them home.
Instead a group of joyriders, who had been drinking heavily, launched a savage attack lasting some 40 minutes that only ended when the victims were thrown off the bus.