As a video of two sisters fighting off three youths, who were allegedly harassing them inside a moving Haryana roadways bus in Rohtak, went viral on social media and was repeatedly beamed by TV networks, indignation and outrage mounted, prompting calls for strict action, and at least one Union minister exhorted women to replicate what the sisters did.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who on Monday hailed the “indomitable courage and bravery” of Aarti and Pooja, said they would be given cash awards on Republic Day.
Union Minister Uma Bharti decided to go a step further: “All the girls should do what these sisters did. They did well. But it is sad that none of the other passengers came to their help. Society has to change its mindset and people should stop being mere onlookers when such incidents take place.”
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the incident highlighted the risks women face even in public spaces. “It is very unfortunate (incident) and very brave of these two girls… I suppose the Centre and the state will all have to work together in a focused manner, otherwise public spaces are not going to be safe,” she said.
National Commission for Women chairperson Lalitha Kumarmangalam said: “I would like to congratulate the girls and ask the authorities to take appropriate action. Few girls have the guts to take on the molesters. The government should take action. I would appeal to every Indian to come forward.”
Kuldeep, Mohit and Deepak, the three youths involved in the November 28 incident, have been arrested and remanded in judicial custody until December 6. Two of them had cleared the physical test for jobs in the army.
Shashank Anand, Rohtak Superintendent of Police, said that not a single eyewitness had approached the police so far. “I would like to request through the media that all people travelling on that bus come forward and become eyewitnesses in the case. I assure that they will face no legal hassles,” he said.
Rohtak Deputy Commissioner Shekhar Vidyarthi said Balwan Singh, the driver of the bus, and conductor Labh Singh have been placed under suspension.
“If such an incident is happening on a government property like that bus, the driver and conductor should have taken it to the police station. But that did not happen. There was a breach in the standard operating procedure. There is dereliction of duty.” Chief Minister Khattar issued instructions to the Director General of Police and Transport department to ensure the safety and security of passengers, especially women travelling in the Haryana Roadways buses.
Meanwhile, Army said they would not recruit two of the three young men involved in the incident, who had cleared the initial rounds of selection at a recruitment rally. “While Kuldeep and Deepak had cleared physical tests during the recruitment rally held between October 31 and November 8, the third youth Mohit’s details did not match Army records. Kuldeep and Deepak were to take a written test on February 1,” the sources said.