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Posted at: Dec 8, 2014, 12:08 AM; last updated: Dec 8, 2014, 12:08 AM (IST)

Many versions cloud Rohtak episode

Doubts persist over braveheart sisters’ act | Prevailing social tensions too creep in
Many versions cloud Rohtak episode

Sunit Dhawan

Tribune News Service

Rohtak, December 7

It’s been 10 days since sisters Aarti and Pooja lodged a police complaint against three boys who allegedly harassed and molested them on a Haryana Roadways bus. Soon after, a mobile phone video of the girls thrashing one of the boys went viral. The police arrested Kuldeep, Mohit and Deepak of Rohtak’s Aasan village.

The girls were felicitated by social organisations and the state government, too, announced a cash award for them. However, the panchayat and residents of the boys’ village vouched for their character and they were soon released on bail.

The girls’ family says their version is not being given importance as they belong to a backward class while the boys are from the dominant Jat community.

Rohtak SP Shashank Anand said the investigation was on and appealed to other co-passengers and eyewitnesses to come out and get their statements recorded. “As per the bus driver and conductor, there were nearly 60 passengers on the bus. Only a handful have come forward,” he said.

Row over a seat?
Kuldeep, Mohit and Deepak maintain the altercation began when Kuldeep asked the girls to vacate their seat for a middle-aged woman. Several eyewitnesses backed their claim. Following this, the state government decided to put the honour for the girls on hold till the investigation was completed.

On November 28, Kuldeep (20), a student of BA II at Rohtak’s Jat College and Mohit (20), a student of BA II at Rohtak’s NRS Government College, went to take an exam at their respective colleges. After the exam, the boys reached the Rohtak bus stand to catch a bus for their village, Aasan.

“At the bus stand, a middle-aged woman (identified as Bimla of Sonepat’s Garhi Sisana village) asked me to bring her a ticket. I got her a ticket with a seat number. After we boarded the bus, a roadways employee said the bus had been cancelled and asked us to board another bus parked nearby,” said Kuldeep.

He said the seat allocated to Bimla was occupied by two girls (later identified as Pooja and Aarti) in the new bus. “Bimla asked the girls to vacate her seat, but they refused, stating that the seat number was allocated for the previous bus,” he said.

Kuldeep said he also asked the girls to vacate a seat for the woman, which triggered the quarrel. “Bimla went and sat on another seat and asked me to move away from the girls to normalise the situation,” he said.

What the boys say
Kuldeep and Mohit claimed they moved away from the seat, but the girls continued to abuse them. When the bus reached Bhalauth village, Deepak (19), also from Aasan village, boarded it. He, too, is a student of BA II at Jat College and had gone to Rohtak to take his exam. After the exam, he came to Bhalauth village by a private bus to fetch ghee. When Deepak boarded the bus, Kuldeep told him about the quarrel.

Around the same time, one of the sisters took out her belt and started thrashing Kuldeep. The driver stopped the bus and the boys got down. A young woman (yet to be identified) filmed the incident on her mobile phone.

The girls’ version
Pooja and Aarti — BCA students at Government College for Women, Rohtak — allege the boys were making lewd gestures and had teased them before they retaliated. They say one of the boys threw a slip with his phone number at them at the bus stand.

However, co-passengers and eyewitnesses do not support their allegations. Sonepat resident Sonia Mittal, an MPhil student at Rohtak’s Maharshi Dayanand University, who was travelling by the same bus, told this correspondent that no eve-teasing or molestation took place and the quarrel was over a seat.

Vikram, who boarded the bus from Pakasma turn and also tried to intervene when the sisters were thrashing the boys, said it was not a case of molestation. Bimla, on whose seat the quarrel began, also said no molestation or eve-teasing had taken place and the quarrel was over her seat. This theory has been backed by several persons claiming to be co-passengers and eyewitnesses.

The sisters maintained the co-passengers’ statements were part of pressure tactics to force them to withdraw their complaint. Talking to reporters at their house in Sonepat’s Thana Khurd village, Pooja and Aarti said women were a suppressed lot in Haryana and society had turned against them as they had dared to challenge male dominance.

Not the only case
Some more cases have surfaced in which Pooja and Aarti have accused boys of eve-teasing and molestation. Another video that has also gone viral on the Internet shows the sisters thrashing a boy at a Rohtak park.

In a case dug out by The Tribune, the sisters had lodged a complaint of eve-teasing against four boys of Sisana village. They later withdrew the complaint following compensation. The girls’ mother, Santosh conceded the matter, though she denied having demanded or received money in the case.

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