Photo Credit: AFP

India has executed the four men who were convicted of the brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi in 2012 which sparked huge nationwide protests and international outcry.

Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh had been found guilty in a 2013 trial and sentenced to death by hanging, but their execution had been postponed multiple times due to Supreme Court appeals.

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 were hanged at dawn on Friday in the capital’s high-security Tihar Prison. It was the first time in five years that capital punishment has been carried out in India and hundreds gathered outside the prison gates, shouting “Death to rapists”.

The victim, Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, clung to life for two weeks before succumbing to her injuries after she was gang raped on a moving bus and left for dead on the roadsude in December 2012. She died in a hospital in Singapore where she had been transferred in a desperate attempt to save her. Prevented from using her real name, the Indian press christened her Nirbhaya, meaning fearless.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a Twitter post said, “Justice has prevailed.”

“It is of utmost importance to ensure dignity and safety of women,” he said.

Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi, who had campaigned fiercely for her daughter’s murderers to be hanged, said :“Today is dedicated to daughters of the country”.

“As soon as I returned from Supreme Court, I hugged the picture of my daughter and said today you got justice,” said Devi , adding “I thank the judiciary and government.”

“Our wait for justice was painful and agonising,” said Nibhaya’s father.