“Not a single person came forward to help him,” said Lalit Kumar (17), while narrating how armyman Ved Mitra Chaudhary was assaulted after he protested against six men harassing Lalit’s sister in Meerut’s Harkesh Nagar on Thursday. Chaudhary, who sustained fractures on his skull during the assault, succumbed to his injuries at the Army Hospital later.
Lalit recalled that around 6.30 pm on August 13, his sister was returning home when six men started harassing her. As she shouted for help, her family members reached the spot. “We asked them to stop harassing her, but in vain. Meanwhile, the armyman, who had come there to buy milk, got into an argument with the men and was slapped. In retaliation, he hit them. Soon, around 15-20 men from a nearby village came there and started hitting him. Over 50 people stood there, watching the assault. No one protested,” he said.
As for his sister, the victim, the incident has strengthened her resolve of becoming a civil servant. “If the people around us had shown some compassion and if the police would have reached the spot on time, he would have been alive. I am going to become an IAS officer and make sure that such criminals are punished,” she said.
The 22-year-old college graduate added, “People only give speeches. No one protests when a girl is harassed.”
She said the accused had been harassing her for the past six days. “I did not inform anyone as I was scared that the blame would fall on me. I was scared that my parents would not let me leave the house and that would affect my studies. So, I endured the harassment and avoided those men. I cannot express my indebtedness to the armyman,” she said.
Lalit said they were planning to shift to another part of the city. “We no longer feel safe here. Police has assured us of security, but for how long can they protect us,” he said.
At Titoli village in Shamli district, where Chaudhary’s family lives, there is grief and anger, but also a sense of pride. Every time Chaudhary’s elder brother broke down, his father told him to be composed and stand tall. “Your brother died a martyr. How many people in this village or the country would have shown the courage that he showed,” he said.
“Let’s see what the Centre, which talks about Beti Bachao, and the Uttar Pradesh government do in this case. We want the guilty to be hanged so that no one dares to harass women,” Chaudhary’s father added.
Chaudhary had been serving in the Indian Army since 2001. He had also worked for the UN Peace Mission in Sudan for nearly six months in 2006. Posted in the 416 Engineering Brigade, he had been living in Meerut for more than a year. He is survived by his 30-year-old wife Babita Devi and two children — a nine-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son.
“He wanted to bring up his daughter as a brave girl. Now, our son wants to become an army officer and fulfill his father’s dream,” said Babita.
A relative, who was consoling her, said, “If this happens to an armyman, what about the Common Man? After this incident, people would be scared to protest when someone is being harassed. Why did people standing there stay quiet?”
Police said they have arrested three people in the case. “The investigation is being carried out with utmost urgency. The accused will be caught. We have also provided security to the woman’s family,” said Meerut SSP Dinesh Chand Dubey.