New Delhi: The 23-year-old medical student, whose savage gang-rape on a moving bus provoked outrage and protests through India, died early this morning in a hospital in Singapore after severe organ failure. Her parents were by her side.
They will reach India with their young daughter's body on a chartered Air India plane sent for them. (Read) Just three nights ago, they had flown with her doctors and her on an air ambulance to Singapore.
"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 Mount Elizabeth Hospital said.
Prime Minister appealed for calm and vowed that those guilty of the murderous assault will be severely punished. The Delhi Police sealed all routes to India Gate in the heart of the capital, where protests last weekend had been spattered with violence.
"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," Dr Manmohan Singh said. The president of his party, Sonia Gandhi, said, "It strengthens our resolve to fight with all our might and with all the powers of our laws and our administration for the safety and protection of all women of our country and to ensure swift and fitting punishment for the perpetrators of such acts." (Read: the reactions)
In Delhi, close to five hundred protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar, the designated spot for demonstrations; some of them lay down with black ribbons across their mouths.
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit tried to join them, but was heckled after she lit a candle and was then taken away by her security. Protesters said they objected to her presence because they do not want a political tint to today's sombre mood. (Read: Delhi Chief Minister forced to return)
For 13 days, the student fought for her life. She endured three major surgeries, brain injury and a cardiac arrest in a hospital in Delhi. But this was not a woman who was ready to give up. In scribbled messages while on life support systems, she reportedly asked her family if the six men who had damaged her so badly that her intestines had to be removed had been caught and punished.
They have been charged today with her murder; their trial is likely to begin on January 3; the government has promised daily hearings to ensure a verdict is delivered quickly. ('Amanat' lost: can India change? Comment here)
Before she was flown to Singapore, the woman shared the details of her attack with two different judges. Her testimony was not video-taped but will be used in the trial.
On December 16, the student and a male friend boarded a bus after watching a film when they were attacked by six men who took turns to rape her. They also beat the couple with an iron rod.
The bus kept circling a 31-kilometre stretch in South Delhi, its tinted windows concealing the savagery within as it rolled unstopped through a series of police checkpoints.
Almost an hour later, the couple was thrown from the bus, battered and bleeding; a passer-by phoned the police for help.
The government has promised to amend criminal laws to include the death penalty for extreme cases of sexual assault.
In Delhi, five fast-track courts will start functioning in January with daily hearings for all rape cases. Measures to make public transport safer at night for women are being debuted.