New Delhi: The suffering of a university student and her male friend who were brutally attacked aboard a bus in India’s capital did not end after the woman was gang-raped and both were savagely beaten for two and a half hours.
“We lay naked for more than two hours….several vehicles passed by, but no one stopped to help….police personnel wasted 30 minutes arguing about jurisdiction….and they didn’t lift her…..I put my profusely bleeding friend in the Police Control Room van despite my injuries,” the friend recounted in a television interview.. He is the only eyewitness to the entire episode.
The interview on Friday marked the first time the man, who has not been named, has spoken publicly about the December 16 attack in New Delhi.
Tearing the already tarnished image of the Delhi Police to pieces, he contradicted the police claims that they acted swiftly after being informed. He said the three Police Control Room vans arrived at the scene only after about 45 minutes and wasted time in deciding under which police station’s jurisdiction the case fell.
Describing the sequence of events after they were lured into boarding the private bus, he said, “Apart from the driver and helper, others behaved like they were passengers. We paid Rs20 (Dh1.33) as fare. Soon after they began teasing my friend and this led to a brawl. We were shouting and trying to make people hear us. But they switched off the lights inside the bus. I beat up three of them and my friend also fought with them to save me. She tried to dial the police control room number 100, but the accused snatched her mobile.”
The man went on to tell Zee News that after the pair were on the bus for a while, the men started harassing and attacking them.
“I gave a tough fight to three of them. I punched them hard. But then two others hit me with an iron rod,” he said. The woman tried to call the police using her mobile phone, but the men took it away from her, he said. They then took her to the rear seats of the bus and raped her.
“The attack was so brutal I can’t even tell you ... even animals don’t behave like that,” the man said.
Afterwards, he overheard some of the attackers saying the woman was dead, he said.
The 23-year-old woman died last weekend from massive internal injuries suffered during the attack. Authorities charged five men with her murder and rape and were holding a sixth suspect believed to be a juvenile. A hearing in the case was scheduled for Saturday.
On the night of the attack, the woman and her companion had just finished watching the movie “Life of Pi” at an upscale mall and were looking for a ride home. An autorickshaw driver declined to take them, so they boarded the private bus with the six assailants inside, the companion told the Indian TV station Zee News.
“After throwing us off from the bus, they tried to mow us under the tyres, but I saved my friend by pulling her away at the right time. Lying naked on the road we tried to stop passers-by. Several auto rickshaws, cars and bikes slowed down, but no one stopped.
“After about 25 minutes someone stopped and called the police.” Finally, he said, they were taken to a hospital.
“When we reached the hospital, I sat without clothes on the floor for a long time even as my friend was taken inside for treatment,” he said.
The man said he was given no medical care. He then spent four days at the police station helping police investigate the crime. He said he visited his friend in the hospital, told her the attackers were arrested and promised to fight for her.
“Even at the hospital, we were made to wait and no one offered us a blanket. I had to literally beg for clothes. I borrowed a stranger’s mobile and called up my relatives, only to tell them that I had met with an accident. My treatment started only after my relatives came.”
He said his friend was determined to see that the attackers were punished. “She gave all details of the crime to the magistrate — things we can’t even talk about,” he said. “She told me that the culprits should be burnt alive.”
Authorities have not named the man because of the sensitivity of the case. Zee News also declined to give his name, although it did show his face during the interview. The man has a broken leg and was sitting in a wheelchair during the interview.
Indian law prohibits the disclosure of the identity of victims in rape cases, and police have opened an investigation into the TV station for broadcasting the interview, New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said on Saturday. Violators of the law can face up to two years in prison and a fine.
The man said he gave the TV interview because he hopes it will encourage rape victims to come forward and speak about their ordeal without shame.
“She has awakened us all by her courage,” he said of his friend, who died at a Singapore hospital after being flown there for treatment. “People should move ahead in the struggle to prevent a similar crime happening again as a tribute to her.”
The attack has outraged Indians and led to calls for tougher rape laws and reforms of a police culture that often blames rape victims and refuses to file charges against accused attackers.
A week after the physiotherapist succumbed to her injuries at a hospital in Singapore, her friend said, “There have been protests all around. The only change that I would want and I think she would have wanted is that the next time you see someone who needs your help, please step forward and do so. If someone had helped that night, she might have been alive.”
Most people in India are reluctant to get involved in police business because once they become witnesses, they can be dragged into legal cases that can go on for years. Also, Indian police are often seen less as protectors and more as harassers.