A government-chartered plane has arrived in New Delhi carrying the body of an Indian student who died in Singapore from injuries sustained in a rape attack.
Security sources say the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was at Indira Gandhi International Airport for the arrival of the specially-chartered plane when it touched down.
A journalist at the airport says a convoy of 10-15 vehicles could be seen on the runway before quickly driving away.
India's high commissioner in Singapore T.C.A. Raghavan told AFP by email the chartered plane took off from Changi Airport at 12:30am (1630 GMT Saturday).
The body, lying in a gold-coloured coffin wrapped in a white cloth, was transported to the cargo complex of the airport in a van more than three hours earlier after it was prepared a funeral home, an AFP reporter said.
The rape victim was airlifted to Singapore on Thursday for treatment at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital following the savage attack in New Delhi on December 16, but she succumbed to her injuries early Saturday.
The student was attacked by six men on a bus who took turns to rape her and assaulted her with an iron bar before throwing her and her male companion off the moving vehicle.
The Singapore hospital said in a statement she had "suffered from severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain" after doctors laboured overnight in a dramatic, last-ditch effort to save her life.
She had been unconscious since her arrival in Singapore on an air ambulance, and some critics in India said she should not have been transported due to her condition.
Indian ambassador Raghavan spoke of the anguish the family had to endure.
"The girl of course was unconscious... I must say they (the family) bore the entire process with a great deal of fortitude and a great deal of courage," he told reporters Saturday.
Following her death, the woman's body was sent to a morgue at another hospital and then brought to the Hindu Casket funeral parlour.
While the news of her death dominated world headlines, there were no crowds at the funeral home and only one wreath was delivered, an AFP reporter saw.
The only people outside the funeral parlour were local and international journalists, who numbered around 20 at one point but dwindled later in the day.
Ring of steel
Authorities in India have thrown a ring of steel around the centre of New Delhi as thousands of Indians joined protests in a mass outpouring of grief and anger
Police warned the six suspects, who have been charged with murder in relation to the attack, could face the death sentence.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led appeals for calm and police sealed off large parts of the capital as they sought to prevent a repeat of the sometimes violent protests that followed the December 16 assault.
The demonstrations passed peacefully, however, as mourners vowed the 23-year-old medical student's killing would serve as a tipping point for how the nation deals with violence against women.
Protestors who gathered in the Jantar Mantar thoroughfare in central Delhi, scene of the largest protest, said the unnamed student's death was a wake-up call for a country in denial about the levels of violence that women face.
The numbers swelled throughout the day and into the evening, with some 5,000 taking part in a candlelit vigil after nightfall despite near freezing temperatures.
Bela Rana, who was among the protestors, said the outrage after the attack represented a sea change and women were no longer prepared to suffer in silence.
"We are aware that this is not the first case, nor will it be the last case of gang-rape in India, but it is clear that we will not tolerate sex crimes anymore," said Rana, a Delhi-based lawyer.
Some of the protesters, who also gathered in outlying areas of the capital, carried banners that read "Hang the Rapist", accompanied by a picture of a noose.
The police have been heavily criticised for their hardline tactics in trying to quash the protests, including the frequent use of teargas and water cannon.
Gang-rapes are a daily occurrence in India and many go unreported by victims who have little faith in an often painfully slow justice system and are deterred by the response they can receive from male police officers.
But the particularly savage nature of the attack in Delhi has brought simmering anger to a boiling point and prompted the government to promise better security for women and harsher sentences for sex crimes.