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‘Kin decided’ funeral

New Delhi, Dec. 31: The gang rape victim’s funeral was performed in Delhi in accordance with her family’s wishes, the Centre said today, rejecting suggestions it had dictated terms.

“The government didn’t force the time or the place of the cremation. Everything was done to facilitate the family’s wishes. We had kept all options open for the family,” junior Union home minister R.P. Singh, who attended yesterday morning’s cremation, said.

The government held discussions with the family after the girl’s body was flown in from Singapore, Singh said.

Today’s rebuttal came after criticism, including from the BJP, that the secrecy-shrouded funeral was held in a “hurried manner” and reports that the Centre had picked Delhi over the family’s hometown Ballia in Uttar Pradesh.

The victim’s ashes were brought to Ballia today and could be immersed in the Ganga tomorrow, PTI reported.

The Delhi government today announced a compensation of Rs 15 lakh for the family and a job for one member, citing “exceptional circumstances and the barbaric nature of the crime”. The Uttar Pradesh government announced another Rs 20 lakh.

If Singh dismissed allegations over the funeral, his senior, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, tried bridging the political divide on tougher rape laws.

Shinde wrote to all parties today inviting suggestions for changes in rape laws and asking them to send their proposals to the committee headed by former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma. The panel was formed in the wake of the December 16 atrocity to recommend amendments in the criminal codes.

But the BJP rebuffed Shinde’s suggestion and insisted that a special session of Parliament be convened. “My demand for a special session was rejected by the home minister. Then we demanded an all-party meeting but that was also rejected,” Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj said at a BJP condolence meet for the girl.

But the Centre argued that a special session could be called only after the Verma panel hands in its report. “Let us first get the report,” finance minister P. Chidambaram said.