Dawn funeral shrouded in secrecy

The girl who lit a fire in the hearts of billions was consigned to the flames in the early morning of Sunday, hours after her body was flown home from Singapore.
In a ceremony kept out of the public glare, her father lit the funeral pyre in the presence of his relatives and neighbours in a crematorium at Dwarka at 7.30 am.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi were at the airport to console the parents, who landed in India with their daughter’s body around 3.30 am. The body was then taken to the family home at Mahavir Enclave in southwest Delhi. The 23-year-old Delhi girl, who was brutally gangraped in a moving bus, had waged a brave battle with death for 13 days.
Her cremation and journey back home was covered in a shroud of secrecy, as the government and police apprehended another wave of public fury against the ruling class. The police in fact wanted the cremation to be carried out in Ballia or Varanasi. The government, which was accused of being “insensitive”, refused the police proposal. The Delhi police also wanted the cremation done before sunrise, sources said. The police’s rush to get over with the rituals, however, failed following objections raised by the authorities concerned at the crematorium run by the New Indian Education and Cultural Society. As per Hindu tradition, the crematorium authorities and the family wanted to wait till sunrise. It was learnt that in a bid to maintain complete secrecy, the police approached the crematorium only around 10.30 pm Saturday. Sources said the crematorium authorities were asked to complete the rituals by 6.30 am.
Under heavy police bandobast, the body was brought to the crematorium around 7 am, along with the family members. After about half an hour, the father lit the pyre of his daughter, who only a few days back had said, “I want to live.” The mother, who refused to accept her daughter’s sudden death, was inconsolable and fainted several times. She clung to her daughter’s body and collapsed the moment it was taken away to the crematorium. Later in the day she was rushed to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Hospital.
“Why this secrecy. What is the government scared of? It’s an insult to people who prayed for her,” said angry protesters demanding an answer.
At Jantar Mantar, a little girl stood silently in front of a placard that said “I am not a toy, so don’t play with me.” As she stood holding onto the fingers of her father, the protest raged all around her. While some raised anti-government slogans, others chanted Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn, Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram. Others, with black cloths tied around their faces, sat quietly in front of burning candles. Despite roadblocks and the Metro shutdown, there was no let-up in the protests as people continued to arrive at Jantar Mantar.
The protest venue, however, was teeming with paramilitary and Rapid Action Force personnel. Water cannon were kept ready for any possible unrest. Barricades were put up at the venue and people entering the area were made to stand in queue and frisked by policemen. “All for security reasons,” a police officer said.
“Every act that violates women’s dignity is rarest of the rare,” read a placard. Another wondered: “65 years of freedom? Is my country really mine?” Moved by the savage attack, some foreigners were seen sitting with the protesters. The movement is all set to continue into New Year’s Eve on Monday. “There’s nothing to celebrate. Not anymore,” said Shiksha, a college student, while lighting a candle in memory of the “brave girl”.

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