"Meri bachchi ko mere paas rehne do, usey mujhse door mat karo (don't take my daughter away from me, let her remain with me)" was the cry of the distraught mother as the body of her young daughter was being taken to the crematorium.
The mother of the 23-year-old gang-raped woman fainted several times in grief after the body was brought to their family home in Mahavir Enclave in southwest Delhi early Sunday morning. The mother was taken to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, where her condition is stated to be stable.
"As soon as the body was taken away for cremation, the mother collapsed," Vimla, a neighbour, said.
The body of the young woman, who became the focus of countrywide protests and prayers, was flown in from Singapore at 3.30 a.m. and taken to the family home at 4.25 a.m. It was kept there for about two hours before being taken to the crematorium in Dwarka Sector 19.
The mother was sobbing inconsolably over the body and fainted several times, said neighbours.
"When the body was being put in an ambulance to be taken to the crematorium at around 6.15 a.m., the mother pleaded, 'Don't touch my daughter's body', and fainted," said a next-door neighbour. Family members and friends sprinkled water on her face to bring her back to consciousness.
"I don't want to let my daughter go alone, please let her remain with me," the grief-stricken mother pleaded again and again, before she fell unconscious.
She was taken to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital after her daughter was cremated around 7.30 a.m.
According to one of the neighbours, after the Dec 16 brutal gang-rape and torture of her daughter, the mother had hardly eaten any food, and her health had deteriorated. She has already been keeping unwell for the past few months, another neighbour told IANS.
Since Saturday evening, a large number of people, mostly neighbours, were assembling outside the family's home to condole the torture victim's death.
The house, an unplastered brick structure, comprises two small ordinary rooms, also unplastered. The house belongs to a relative, who stays in one of the rooms while the entire family of the young woman - parents and two brothers - stay in the other room. The family room has bare minimum furnishing. They have been staying there for the past two and a half years.
Many residents of Mahavir Enclave visited the house in a steady stream since morning to offer condolences and their support to the traumatised family. But, not finding the family members at home, as they were in hospital with the mother, the neighbours got restive and began shouting slogans demanding justice for the dead woman and punishment to the rapists.
"We want Justice", "Hang the rapists!", "Hate liquor that turns people into beasts", were among the slogans that the people were shouting.
When the IANS correspondent was searching for the house and asked some residents the whereabouts, the neighbors said emphatically in unison: "She is our daughter."
"Every house in this street belongs to her," said Vimla.
According to Vimla, the family of the dead woman was "very poor".
The parents had sold a plot of land nearby as well as land in their village in Ballia district of eastern Uttar Pradesh to fund their daughter's education.
"Now her elder brother, who is preparing for his engineering entrance exams, has no hope to continue his studies. The family had depended on her future career to see them out of their poverty," Vimla said.
Ranvir Sirohi, another resident of Mahavir Enclave, told IANS that the victim's father is a loader at the Delhi airport and has been "saving every penny to make his daughter a doctor".
In order to see the dream fulfilled, the family did not care to shift to better accommodation, he said.
Now the dream lies shattered.
Earlier in the day, according to government sources, Dikshit consoled the family and offered a small prayer for the woman.