The mortal remains of the gangrape victim, who lost her brave battle for life in a Singapore hospital yesterday, were consigned to flames here early today away from public glare, hours after her body was received by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President 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.
Singh and 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 IGI airport at around 3.30am, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi met the disconsolate parents and brothers of the paramedica student and commisserated 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.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit, Minister of state for Home Affairs R P N Singh, West Delhi MP Mahabal Mishra, Delhi BJP chief Vijender Gupta were also present at the cremation from which the media was kept out.
It was only late last night that police had approached the officials of a crematorium for an early morning cremation of the 23-year-old gangrape 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 materialize 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 gangrape and brutal assault on the girl.
Police had approached the government yesterday and proposed that the body be taken directly to Ballia in UP, the girl's native place, via Lucknow or Varanasi but the government decided against it, sources said.
Surges of protests erupted across India since the attack on the night of December 16 when the woman was not only repeatedly raped but also sexually assaulted with an iron bar, leaving her with terrible intestinal injuries.
Thousands took part in fresh demonstrations today and they passed off peacefully as mourners vowed the student's killing would serve as a tipping point for how the nation deals with violence against women.
After being treated at the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, she was flown to Singapore on Wednesday night but doctors were unable to prevent a multiple organ failure and she was pronounced dead in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Braving freezing cold, thousands of people took part in late-night candlelit vigils and silent protest marches across the country on Saturday, demanding stricter punishment to rapists and tougher measures to prevent crime against women.
The savage nature of the attack on the girl brought the simmering anger among the people to a tipping point and prompted the government to promise better security for women and harsher sentences for crimes against them.
The girl, a physiotherapy student, was gangraped and brutally assaulted allegedly by six men in a moving bus in south Delhi on December 16 night. She died yesterday morning.
Police have slapped murder charges, which has death penalty in rarest of rare cases, against the six accused and will file the chargesheet against them on January three.
Investigators said they will seek the harshest punishment for the culprits.