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Body of India rape victim cremated in New Delhi

Adnan Abidi / Reuters

Mourners arrive at a cremation ground to attend the funeral of a rape victim after her body arrived from Singapore, in New Delhi on Sunday.

NEW DELHI - The body of a woman whose gang rape provoked protests and rare national debate about violence against women in India arrived back in New Delhi early on Sunday and was quickly cremated at a private ceremony. 

The unidentified 23-year-old medical student died from her injuries on Saturday, prompting promises of action from a government that has struggled to respond to public outrage. 

She had suffered brain injuries and massive internal injuries in the attack on Dec. 16, and died in hospital in Singapore where she had been taken for treatment. 

She and a male friend had been returning home from a movie theater, media reports say, when six men on a bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. The friend survived. 

India charges six suspects with murder after victim of horrific gang rape dies

Six suspects were charged with murder after her death. 

A Reuters correspondent saw family members who had been with her in Singapore take her body from the airport to their Delhi home in an ambulance with a police escort. 

Ruling party leader Sonia Gandhi was seen arriving at the airport when the plane landed and Prime Minister Mannmohan Singh's convoy was also there, the witness said. 

A 23-year-old medical student who was raped and attacked on a city bus in New Delhi has died, resulting in charges against six men. Even before she died, her savage attack triggered mass protests about treatment of women. NBC's Duncan Golestani reports.

The body was then taken to a crematorium and cremated. Media were kept away but a Reuters witness saw the woman's family and government officials, including junior home minister, R.P.N. Singh, coming out of the crematorium. 

Security in the capital remained tight after authorities, worried about the reaction to the news of her death, had on Saturday deployed thousands of policemen and closed some roads and metro stations.

Protesters still gathered, in New Delhi and other cities, to keep the pressure on Singh's government to get tougher on crime against women. Last weekend, protesters fought pitched battles with police. 

On Sunday, lines of policemen in riot gear and armed with heavy wooden sticks stood in front of metal barricades closing off roads in New Delhi. Morning traffic was light. 

Government caught off-guard
The outcry over the attack caught the government off-guard. It took a week for Singh to make a statement, infuriating many protesters. 

Issues such as rape, dowry-related deaths and female infanticide rarely enter mainstream political discourse in India. 

The 23-year-old who was gang-raped in New Delhi and thrown from a bus has died from her injuries in Singapore, where she was being treated. NBC's Natalie Morales reports.

Analysts say the death of the woman dubbed "Amanat," an Urdu word meaning "treasure," by some Indian media could change that, although it is too early to say whether the protesters calling for government action to better safeguard women can sustain their momentum through to national elections due in 2014. 

India gang-rape victim dies in hospital; case focused attention on sexual violence

Newspapers raised doubts about the commitment of both male politicians and the police to protecting women. 

"Would the Indian political system and class have been so indifferent to the problem of sexual violence if half or even one-third of all legislators were women?" the Hindu newspaper asked. 

The Indian Express acknowledged the police force was understaffed and poorly paid, but there was more to it than that. 

"It is geared towards dominating citizens rather than working for them, not to mention being open to influential interests," the newspaper said. "It reflects the misogyny around us, rather than actively fighting for the rights of citizens who happen to be female." 

PhotoBlog: Police try to temper outrage over gang rape

Most sex crimes in India go unreported, many offenders go unpunished, and the wheels of justice turn slowly, according to social activists, who say that successive governments have done little to ensure the safety of women. 

Commentators and sociologists say the rape has tapped into a deep well of frustration many Indians feel over what they see as weak governance and poor leadership on social issues. 

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India's major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures. Government data show the number of reported rape cases in India rose by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2011. 

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