New Delhi: A fortnight after her savage gang-rape singed the collective conscience of the nation and plunged it into unprecedented anguish and anger, the body of the young Delhi woman was cremated here early Sunday morning in total secrecy.
The flames may have died, but public anger is not going to die any time soon with hundreds of protesters gathering at Jantar Mantar, the heart of the Indian capital.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi were present at the airport at 3.30 a.m. to receive the body of the 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist who was brutally assaulted and gang-raped by six men Dec 16 in a moving bus in the national capital.
According to sources, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi also spoke to the family members of the young woman and consoled them. "The body arrived this morning and the cremation has been done," a home ministry spokesperson said.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and union Minister of State for Home Affairs R.P.N. Singh were present at the crematorium in southwest Delhi. The cremation was done in total secrecy before sunrise with only family members, police and some officials present.
Officials in the ministry said the body arrived in the national capital at 3.30 a.m.
The woman's body was embalmed after autopsy in Singapore and flown to India in a chartered Air India aircraft. The parents of the woman accompanied the body.
Amid a nation-wide outpouring of grief and anger, hundreds of protesters, mostly students, gathered at the Jantar Mantar, demanding tougher anti-rape laws.
"We want to carry out a peaceful protest, we want to carry forward the movement. But why do police restrain us from protesting at India Gate. But we will continue to protest even if they barricade major stretches of roads and shut all metro stations... The police can't stop us from raising our voices," Praveen Pandey, a law student in Jamia Millia Islamia University, told IANS at the protest site.
"We want speedy justice in the gang-rape case. We want strict laws, until then we will continue our protest," Deepali Sharma, a student from Amity University, Gurgaon who came to the protest along with friends, told IANS.
The protesters, including some elderly people, men and women, mourned the death of the young woman in a silent protest.
"We will be protesting silently, but if the police become violent we will also have no other option but to retaliate. We demand a special session of parliament to discuss the issue of rising rapes in India" Rohit Chahal, state secretary, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), told IANS.
It's not going to be an easy Sunday for ordinary Delhi commuters. Police have imposed restrictive orders around India Gate and Raisina Hill - the capital's power centre - and shut down all roads leading to the areas, as well as shut down ten Metro stations in central Delhi. India Gate and its adjacent areas in the capital will remain out of bounds for public.
Like Saturday, after news of the woman's death came, Delhi Police have closed all roads leading to India Gate.
"Rajpath, Vijay Chowk and all roads leading to India Gate will be closed for general traffic. Travellers are advised to avoid these roads," Delhi Traffic Police posted on its Facebook page.
As many as 10 Delhi Metro stations on three networks -- Yellow, Blue and Violet lines -- also continue to remain shut for an indefinite period.
The stations are Pragati Maidan, Mandi House, Barakhamba Road, Rajiv Chowk, Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhavan, Race Course, Jor Bagh and Khan Market.
A metro official said commuters would, however, be able to inter-change trains at the Rajiv Chowk and Central Secretariat stations. But no one will be allowed to enter or exit these stations.