NEW DELHI: Prayers, candlelight vigils and rallies continued to be held in a sombre atmosphere of grief in several cities as the mortal remains of the gang-rape victim, who lost her brave battle for life in a Singapore hospital on Saturday,
were consigned to flames here early Sunday away from public glare, hours after her body was received by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi in the small hours.
The funeral pyre was lit by her sobbing father at a crematorium in the subcity Dwarka after traumatised relatives and friends said their final prayers at a ritual at the house where the girl lived in southwest Delhi.
Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi waited at the Palam technical area of the IGI Airport where a special aircraft of Air India carrying the mortal remains of the girl as also her parents and family members taxied down the tarmac in heavy fog in a sombre atmosphere reflecting the national mood against the beastial attack on her two Sundays ago that ultimately claimed her life.
After the plane landed at the IGI airport at around 3.30 am, Dr Manmohan Singh and Ms Sonia Gandhi met the disconsolate parents and brothers of the paramedical student and commiserated in their grief. Amidst heavy deployment of Delhi police, BSF and Rapid Action Force personnel in riot gear, the body was then taken to the house where the girl lived, and rituals were performed before being taken to the crematorium at Dwarka Sector 24. The Delhi Chief Minister, Ms Sheila Dixit, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr R P N Singh, West Delhi MP, Mr Mahabal Mishra, Delhi BJP chief, Mr Vijender Gupta were also present at the cremation from which the media was kept out. It was only late Saturday night that police had approached the officials of a crematorium for an early morning cremation of the 23-year-old gang-rape victim.
The cremation plans were kept closely-guarded till the last moment as police apprehended a large gathering may cause law and order problems. Authorities also wanted the last rites to be performed at 6.30 am but their plan did not materialise as Hindu traditions did not allow cremation before sunrise. At 7.30 am, the father of the victim lit the funeral pyre in the presence of her brothers, relatives and others. A senior police official said the security arrangements at the funeral were made to ensure that the exercise takes place peacefully.
There had been violent protests last weekend following the gang-rape and brutal assault on the girl. Police had approached the government on Saturday and proposed that the body be taken directly to Ballia in Uttar Pradesh, the girl’s native place, via Lucknow or Varanasi but the government decided against it, sources said.
Meanwhile, in Andhra Pradesh, college and school students took out protest marches and staged demonstrations in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Kurnool and Warangal, among other towns. Women’s groups, youth associations and political parties organised protests and shouted slogans at various places. Scores of people, mostly students, held a candlelight vigil at Tank Bund in Hyderabad.
People across Chandigarh observed prayers in memory of the victim. Various political outfits, cutting across party-lines, also joined in the mourning and demanded that the guilty be given the severest of the punishments. In Bangalore, protests staged a march that culminated in Town Hall.
Mumbai Pradesh Youth Congress organised candlelight marches at Azad Maidan and suburban Jogeshwari to pay homage to the 23-year-old girl who died on Saturday. The youth wing has demanded capital punishment to the perpetrators of the crime, saying they will send a letter to AICC general secretary, Mr Rahul Gandhi to raise this demand in Lok Sabha.
Several people in Garhwal region in Uttarakhand poured out of their homes and held marches. The victim studied at an institute in Dehradun before moving to Delhi for internship. Processions were taken out at Kotdwara, Pauri and Srinagar and several villages to demand speedy punishment for the rapists. At Kotdwara, hundreds of girls held a march. Several businessmen and political activists also joined the procession. Students of Garhwal University in Srinagar (U’khand) marched to Gola Park where they held a condolence meeting. The district headquarters of Pauri saw a gathering of people and theatre artistes at the Main Bazar.