Candlelight vigils mourn 'India's daughter'

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 02, 2013 18:00 hrs

Thousands of candles cast a sombre glow at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday evening, a scene that was mirrored in many cities and towns of India, as the country mourned the death of a woman, fallen prey to a brutal gangrape.

Protests continued at Jantar Mantar where people gathering since early morning to express their grief and demand the strongest penalties for crimes against women.

A wreath studded with white flowers was put on the ground against an empty photo frame symbolising the girl.

Demonstrations continued throughout the day, as people shouted slogans, waved banners and posters and even prayed in silence.

As evening fell, people lit candles and sat around the makeshift memorial in a silent tribute to the young student.

College students from universities around Delhi organised much of the demonstrations.

Students nearby performed street plays and sang songs urging the society to wake up and end discrimination against women.

India had woke up on Saturday up to the tragic news of the death of the 23-year-old woman in a Singapore hospital, finally losing a 13-day-long fight with destiny after being raped and brutalised by six men on a moving bus in Delhi on Dec 16.

Her death left the nation in a state of mourning and churning as the collective anger of people found new expressions in clamour for change and justice.

The Delhi girl, whose ordeal triggered nationwide protests, died in the hospital in the Singapore early on Saturday (Indian time 2-15 am) after her vital organs failed.

In India, people started pouring out on the streets with the national capital, which has been turned into a fortress by the authorities fearing violence, teeming with young and old, men and women, mourning and protesting and demanding change in law and its implementation.

People in large number and students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) gathered even at Munirka in South Delhi from where the girl had boarded the bus along with her male friend and then experienced a horrific gangrape and brutalization by six men who then threw her off the bus to die.

Protesters and angry mourners at Jantar Mantar maintaining absolute peace sang revolutionary songs and clapped hands to pay their tribute to the girl.

The girl, whose fighting spirit and the nationwide concern for her recovery made her the daughter of India, was taken to Singapore´s Mount Elizabeth Hospital for better treatment.

"She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long against the odds but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to overcome," a statement by the hospital said.

Doctors said she died of "severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain."

In the national capital a heavy security cloak was thrown in fear of protests and mourning turning violent though people started coming out to assemble and register their protest.

India Gate has been cordoned of while there was heavy security presence on Raisina Hill too near the residence of President of India.

The police said the charges of rape would now be upgraded to murder.

Mourning the death, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: "I join the nation in conveying to her family and friends my deepest condolences at this terrible loss. I want to tell them and the nation that while she may have lost her battle for life, it is up to us all to ensure that her death will not have been in vain."

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the government will work hard to ensure that such incidents could be checked and stringent laws were made.

He urged people to not come out on the streets because the government "will do everything possible to address the issue".

He also defended the decision to take the girl to Singapore in best interest of her health and denied that it was a political decision.

President of India Pranab Mukherjee condoled the death.

"She was a brave and courageous girl who fought till the very last minute for her dignity and her life. She is a true hero and symbolises the best in Indian youth and women," said the President.

"I convey my condolences to her parents and family who have faced this adversity with fortitude and grace. I pray that they have the strength to bear this loss The nation will mourn the passing of this brave daughter of India," he said.

"At the same time, let us resolve that this death will not be in vain. We will do everything possible to ensure that such an incident never happens again," he said.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit appealed for calm while saying her heart is burning.

"Our heart goes to the family. My heart is burning over the incident. The passing away of the girl is a truly and terribly tragic incident. It shook our conscience," she said.

Later in the day as she tried to visit the epicentre of demonstrations, Jantar Mantar, she had to face the ire of protesers and return hastily.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said: "Her death has shaken the conscience of the nation. We must wake up and make India safe for daughters."

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said: "We have lost a courageous daughter of our nation today."

A special chartered flight has been sent to Singapore to bring back the body of the girl.

The girl´s parents were by her side when the end came.

The 23-year-old medical student who was raped and brutalised by six men on a moving bus in Delhi on Dec 16, was shifted to the Singapore hospital because it specializes in multi-organ transplant procedures.

Large parts of the victim´s intestines were removed as a result of the injuries she suffered from the attack.

The victim had already undergone three surgeries and a cardiac arrest earlier.

Meanwhile, as clamour for justice and reforms grew louder over the death, the authorities clamped down restrictions in the national capital closing metro stations and barring protesters and mourners from moving close to India Gate and other high security areas.

Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Grounds are two sites that the Delhi Police chose for the protesters even as Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit appealed to Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to allow protesters access to India Gate, the ground zero of protests earlier where the stir had turned violent.

The high security areas of Delhi like the roads on which the residences of Prime Minister, President and other top politicians are located were sealed.

Scenes of protest and marches were mirrored in many parts of India as people took to streets and public places to pay their homage, express grief and register their anguish.

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