New Delhi: At 4 am, even before it was dawn, tripods with cameras were set up outside gate 3 of the Tihar jail complex. Everyone was waiting. It was news the country had been watching out for — the execution of four men convicted in the 16 December Delhi gang rape and murder case.
By 5 am, there was a palpable energy in the air. People with the national flag had turned up while some were holding placards thanking the judiciary, all waiting for the “historic moment”.
Just hours before, during a special hearing, the top court had dismissed a plea challenging the Presidential rejection of a mercy plea filed by one of the convicts.
At 5:30 am, the crowd of at least 100 people started to cheer, clap and whistle. Shouts of ‘Vande Martram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki jai’ went up. Moments later, Tihar authorities confirmed the news: “All four convicts hanged”, triggering a louder celebration.
A moment for everyone
People from NGOs flocked to Tihar in huge numbers and so did parents of daughters.
Meena Sharma, who works with the state health department, said she came to Tihar for her daughter.
“My husband and I could not sleep at night. We had been tracking the case since day one when the incident occurred, when Nirbhaya died. And since then we have been praying for this day,” she said.
“I told my husband that we have to be present at Tihar when they (convicts) are hanged,” she added.
“Last night we followed the news till the last petition (was) filed in the Supreme Court, hoping that the hanging is not deferred. It took seven years but justice has been done. I have a young daughter and no one can understand the need for this hanging more than me,” Sharma said.
Also part of the crowd was Mukesh, a driver from Rajasthan who came all the way to Tihar to witness this morning’s events.
“I took a leave specially to come all the way and be a part of this moment when these men are hanged and justice is finally delivered. I have not been able to be at peace since I have heard about the horrific incident. Today, Nirbhaya will finally rest in peace,” he said.
A child’s question
Standing among the cheering crowd was eight-year-old Jinisha Singh, wearing a bright pink jacket. She talked to the media, doling out details on how the execution would take place and where the bodies would be taken.
She knew that four men were hanged and also why, but did not understand why people were celebrating their death.
“Un logon ne bura kaam kiya toh fansi hui hai, lekin sab itna khush kyu hai (The men did something bad, so they were hanged. But why is everyone so happy)?” Jinisha asked her father.
Simranjeet Singh said he and Jinisha were passing by when the child saw the crowd and wanted to know what was happening.
“I told her that the four men who had brutally raped a woman are being hanged. Although I could not explain the entire case as it is extremely brutal, I told her about the sexual assault and murder of the paramedical student. I believe that we should not hide anything from our kids and that they should be aware,” Simranjeet said.
Jail officials said the bodies were kept hanging for half an hour, a mandatory procedure after execution as per the prison manual.
This is the first time that four convicts have been hanged together in Tihar jail.