Seven years after a young medical student was gang-raped and tortured on a moving bus in Delhi, a crime that shocked India, four of her killers were hanged at 5.30 am on Friday. The pre-dawn execution took place less than two hours after the Supreme Court dismissed the final petition of the convicts.
In the hours before that, the convicts had also petitioned the Delhi High Court, where their lawyer cited coronavirus for the lack of proper documents for a hurriedly-filed appeal.
Akshay Thakur, 31, Pawan Gupta, 25, Vinay Sharma, 26, and Mukesh Singh, 32, were hanged at Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where they spent the last few hours in isolation in separate cells, barely eating.
They hardly slept and refused a last meal or any last wish, said officials. One of them begged for his life as he was led to the gallows.
The entire jail was on lockdown since last night, and officials said, few other prisoners in Asia’s largest prison facility could sleep a wink ahead of the first execution since 2015.
The convicts were woken at 3.30 am, around the time they learnt they had reached the end of the road in courts.
The four filed multiple petitions over the past few months, managing to stall their execution thrice at the eleventh hour. “Send them to the India-Pakistan border, send them to Doklam (at the border with China), but don’t hang them,” pleaded the lawyer of Akshay Thakur.
“We all have waited so long for this day. Today is a new dawn for daughters of India. The beasts have been hanged,” said Asha Devi, the mother of the young woman who came to be known as “Nirbhaya” or fearless. After the Supreme Court’s verdict, she went home and hugged her daughter’s photo.
On December 16, 2012, the 23-year-old woman had watched a movie with her friend and boarded a private bus to reach home. Six men on the bus beat the friend unconscious before attacking the woman.
For nearly an hour, the woman was subjected to a savage assault and tortured with an iron rod before being dumped for dead, naked, bleeding and her intestines spilling out. She survived long enough to identify her attackers but died a few days later in a Singapore hospital amid angry street protests across India and international revulsion.
The woman was studying physiotherapy and worked at a call centre. Her father worked as an airport baggage handler. Her killers lived in a slum in south Delhi.
Of the six arrested, one, Ram Singh, was found dead in his jail cell and a minor who was just short of 18 was freed after three years in a reform home.
India changed its laws on crimes against women after the horrific gang-rape and killing. Earlier this year, the government also asked the Supreme Court to make it harder for convicts in such brutal crimes to use legal loopholes to stall their sentence.