The end of November were great times in a country obsessed with empowering its women. News broke out of two braveheart sisters having fought back three eve-teasers in a public bus in Rohtak, Haryana, even as the co-passengers remained mute spectators. It was reported that the alleged eve-teasers used derogatory language and made obscene gestures before the girls retaliated.
All this was captured in a video shot by an unknown person in the bus; the video quickly went viral on television and social media.
People all over the country lauded the girls – Pooja and Aarti aged 19 and 22, after watching them thrashing the molesters with their bare hands and belts. They were hailed as the Rohtak Bravehearts and nominated for a bravery award by the Chief Minister of Haryana to be presented at the upcoming Republic Day on January 26, 2015.
Video 1: Girls thrashing the boys while co-passengers watched the show:
What happened to the three boys – the alleged eveteasers? In our obsession for protecting, respecting women’s rights and being aligned with the flavour of women empowerment in the country, we took prompt action against the young boys.
They were arrested as per the FIR filed by the girls, in addition to losing their career – a place in the Indian army. Also, the driver and the conductor of the bus in which the incident took place were suspended at once.
But with December setting in, the story took a complete turn. While the parents of the accused molesters urged the government to make an inquiry, another video of the Rohtak sisters cropped up nearly two days later.
This one was shot again by an unknown person, in which the two girls are seen beating and kicking a boy at a park in Rohtak. This video was shot a month and a half earlier. When the girls were questioned, they said he had passed lewd comments. When they were asked who shot these videos, they said it could be an onlooker.
Video 2: Girls thrashing a boy at a park:
Soon several people came forward with a different version of the bus molestation. An elderly woman who had travelled on the same bus informed that the fight was regarding seats allocated to them, and not over molestation, as alleged by the sisters.
The Haryana government put their bravery award on hold, the bus driver and conductor were reinstated and the boys were released on bail.
Meanwhile online news publications, television news channels and social media, that had enabled the propagation of the Rohtak bravehearts’ heroism, went into silent mode. Everybody on social media and elsewhere discussed the two sides of the story, but nobody knew the whole truth.
A new video has surfaced though. A team from the Logical Indian, a news and entertainment site, along with Deepika Bhardwaj, an independent journalist travelled to Rohtak to dig deep into the case and find out the true face of the Rohtak sisters.
The video throws light on a history of crimes committed by the two sisters and their parents. Threatening people with false cases of molestation, rape and kidnapping seems to be their regular source of income. Their confidence seems to be driven by the gender biased laws in the country that are skewed towards women.
Video 3: Stories of people harassed by the Rohtak family:
The girls couldn’t be a part of the story by Logical Indian; they did try to talk over a phone call, but that didn’t happen either.
The duo are adamant on their claims however. They have refuted the allegations against them by women and villagers who had submitted affidavits with the Rohtak DSP supervising the investigation. They have even suggested to undergo a narco analysis test to prove their truth to the special investigation team (SIT).
With this new video surfacing, the Rohtak sisters and their parents seem to be serial extortioners whose modus operandi is to threaten with false cases of rape, molestation and kidnapping against the townsfolk. However, until the SIT releases its investigation report, we cannot come to any conclusion, except that every viral video making the rounds on social media should not be believed at face value.
The Rohtak sisters’ story also raises questions on how news agencies work to bring out heroic stories from whatever and wherever they can. In their race to be the first to bring out the news, they often place sensational journalism over investigative journalism.
And lastly, it highlights the need for gender neutral laws in the country.