India hanged four men on Friday who were convicted for the rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi in 2012, in a case that shocked the world and shamed the country over its appalling record for crimes against women.
Hundreds of police were deployed outside the jail to control a crowd that waited to celebrate the execution. Some held placards that read “Justice for women” and “Hang the culprits”.
The crime, which happened on the night of December 16, 2012, sparked massive protests and global outrage. The victim was dubbed Nirbhaya — the fearless one — by the Indian press, as she could not be named under Indian law.
“Today, justice has been done after seven years,” the victim’s mother told reporters outside the prison. “I salute Indian judiciary and thank god for hearing our prayers…my daughter’s soul can now rest in peace.”
Six men were arrested for the brutal attack. One suspect, Ram Singh, was found dead in his jail cell in March 2013, having apparently taken his own life.
Another, who was aged 17 at the time, was released in 2015 after serving three years in a reform facility — the maximum term possible for a juvenile in India.
The four hanged on Friday were gym instructor Vinay Sharma, bus cleaner Akshay Thakur, fruit-seller Pawan Gupta and unemployed Mukesh Singh, who were all sentenced to death by a fast-track court in 2013.
In 2017, the Supreme Court upheld death sentences against four men, with judges ruling the crime met the “rarest of the rare” standard required to justify capital punishment in India.
India’s president rejected pleas for clemency from the condemned men, after the Supreme Court dismissed their pleas for a review of the death sentences.
Attacked on a moving bus and left for dead on roadside, the victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, clung to life for two weeks before succumbing to her injuries. She died in a hospital in Singapore, where she had been transferred in a desperate attempt to save her.
Outrage over her death led to India passing tough new laws against sexual violence, including the death penalty for rape in some cases.
Still, one woman reported a rape every 15 minutes on average in India in 2018, according to government data released last month, underlining the country’s reputation as one of the worst places in the world to be female.
Women reported almost 34,000 rapes in 2018, barely changed from the year before. Just over 85% led to charges, and 27% to convictions, according to the annual crime report released by the federal home ministry.
Activists say the government statistics understate the number of rapes as it is still considered a taboo by conservative Indians to report sexual violence.