NEW DELHI: The four men convicted for the gang-rape and murder of a woman on a Delhi bus in 2012 were executed on Friday morning.
The incident sparked huge nationwide protests and international revulsion over the long history of sexual assault in India. The four were hanged before dawn at Tihar Jail in the darness of pre-dawn at 5:30 AM in the Indian capital. This is India’s first execution since 2015.
Mukesh Kumar (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31) were excecuted for the savage assault on a moving bus on the 23-year-old physiotherapy intern who has came to be known as Nirbhaya, the fearless one.
The brutal attack sparked weeks of demonstrations and shone a spotlight on the alarming rates of sexual violence and the plight of women in India where around 95 rapes are reported daily.
The execution sparked small celebrations outside the prison early on Friday. “We are satisfied that finally my daughter got justice after seven years,” the victim’s mother Asha Devi told reporters outside the jail. “The beasts have been hanged.”
Celebrations were also held in the victim’s ancestral village in northern Uttar Pradesh state where her extended family members exchanged sweets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded to the execution on Twitter, saying “justice has prevailed”, adding “It is of utmost importance to ensure dignity and safety of women.”
This is the first time four men were hanged together in Tihar Jail, the largest prison complex that houses 16,000 inmates. The executions were carried after the convicts exhausted every possible legal options to escape the gallows.
The execution was set for January 22 but was displayed due to the desperate attempts by their legal respresentatives. On March 5, a trial court issued fresh death warrants for March 20 as the final date for executions.
The young girl was returning home from the cinema with a male friend on the evening of December 16, 2012 and boarded a Delhi bus. Five men and a 17-year-old boy knocked the friend unconscious and dragged the girl to the back of the bus and raped and tortured her with a metal rod.
After raping and brutalising the woman, the men dumped her and the friend on the road from moving bus and left her for dead. Singh died 13 days later in a Singapore hospital from massive internal injuries.
The uproar over the case led to tougher punishments for rapists including the death penalty for repeat rape offenders. The saga was also turned into an awarding-winning Netflix mini-series reconstructing the police investigation.
Nearly 34,000 rapes were reported in India in 2018, according to official data. This is considered the tip of the iceberg, with many more victims too scared to come forward.
The victim survived long enough to identify her attackers and all six were arrested. Four of them were convicted in 2013. Another accused, Ram Singh who was the supposed ringleader, was found dead in jail in a suspected suicide, while the 17-year-old spent three years in a juvenile detention centre.