Hurried morning cremation for Delhi gangrape victim

* Manmohan, Sonia receive grieving Delhi gangrape victim's family at airport, express regret

* Heavy security deployed as body taken home, then to crematorium

Amid the public grief and anger across the country, the 23-year-old paramedical student who was gangraped and tortured in a moving bus in the capital was cremated in a private ceremony here early on Sunday morning, hours after her body was flown in from Singapore.

The Air India special flight (861 A) carrying the body of the rape victim, who died at a Singapore hospital early on Saturday, arrived at the IGI Airport (technical area) at about 3:20 am on Sunday. The victim's family was received by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who reportedly arrived in a cavalcade that dispensed with the standard protocol for VVIP movement. Both Singh and Sonia are learnt to have placed wreaths on the coffin and expressed their regrets to the family.

At about 4:10 am, an ambulance carrying the body left the airport, escorted by over 20 companies of riot control personnel in buses and at least 15 more vehicles carrying senior Delhi Police officials. The body was taken to the victim's Delhi home for over an hour, during which relatives and neighbours paid their last respects.

Despite the early hour, security personnel were deployed in huge numbers around the neighbourhood to ensure that no protests were carried out. The local MP, Mahabal Mishra, and Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta, also arrived at the victim's house.

At a little past 6 am, the victim's father, two brothers and other relatives carried the body out to a waiting ambulance, for the final journey to a crematorium in Dwarka. It was still dark and the crematorium was barely visible due to the heavy fog.

At least 1,000 personnel of the Rapid Action Force were deployed at the crematorium, where the victim's family waited for the first rays of the sun to perform the last rites, as advised by the priests. At around 7:30 am, the funeral pyre was lit by the victim's father and two brothers.

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Minister of State for Home R P N Singh and senior BJP leader Jagdish Mukhi were among those who arrived for the cremation. Both Dikshit and Singh are reported to have assured justice to the family.

By 9 am, all the security personnel had left the cremation ground. Only some relatives and friends of the family remained, united in their grief.

DCP (South) Chhaya Sharma, who was present throughout the operation, said the decision to deploy so many security personnel was taken in order to avoid any untoward incident or protests.

"We have had policemen in plainclothes profiling the colony and residents since yesterday. While the security cover is indeed unprecedented, there were inputs about the possibility of outrage. The bereaved family has already suffered a lot, we did not want more trouble for them," said Sharma.

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