What Delhi can learn from this France ‘backpack hero’ who challenged knife attacker and saved children

Jun 10, 2023 12:48 PM IST

Had onlookers in Delhi shown some courage as Henri d’Anselme did, the recent incidents could have been avoided.

As 20-year-old Sahil stabbed his 16-year-old female friend over 16 times and bludgeoned her to death with a stone in north-west Delhi’s Shahbad Dairy area in full public glare on May 28, bystanders watched the assault and casually walked past. The chilling murder has reignited the discourse surrounding the prevalent violence against women and the indifference displayed by onlookers.

Henri, the 'backpack hero', listens to French President Emmanuel Macron delivering a speech as he meets rescue forces in Annecy.(AP)
Henri, the 'backpack hero', listens to French President Emmanuel Macron delivering a speech as he meets rescue forces in Annecy.(AP)

On June 8 night, another disturbing incident unfolded on a street of the national capital, as a man fell victim to a brutal attack in northeast Delhi, while bystanders failed to offer any assistance. A viral video from Nand Nagri depicted a man lying immobile and face-down on the road, while the assailant brandished what appeared to be a knife. Shockingly, the attacker walked away without any intervention from the onlookers.

This indifference is commonly referred to as the “bystander effect”. The term originated from the tragic case of Kitty Genovese, an American woman who was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in 1964, while approximately 38 bystanders failed to offer significant help until it was too late.

Had these onlookers shown some courage as Henri d’Anselme did, the above incidents could have been avoided.

Henri- the 'backpack hero'

Henri - a modern-day pilgrim on a year-long walking tour of France's cathedrals - has been hailed in France as the “backpack hero”, a young man who challenged the knife-wielding attacker who stabbed four young children and two adults in a playground in Annecy on Friday.

The attacker slashed at the 24-year-old man with the knife that he used to savagely stab one child after another. But rather than run, Henri held his ground — using a weighty backpack he was carrying to swing at the assailant and parry his blade.

French media hailed Henri as “the hero with a rucksack” after he was shown in a video grappling with the assailant and charging after him during the knife attack that critically wounded four children between the ages of 22 months and 3 years old, and also injured two adults.

Asked about the suggestion that the attacker may have been Christian, Henri said it made no sense.

“It is profoundly unchristian to attack the vulnerable. The entire Christian civilisation on which our country is built is a knightly message to defend widows and orphans. I think that, on the contrary, something very bad inhabited him,” he said.

Henri, who met President Emmanuel Macron later on Friday, said he had to revisit the gruesome details of the attack during a three-hour statement to police on Thursday.

(With inputs from agencies)

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Have 11 years' experience in print and digital media. Write on politics, defence and world affairs, and have a keen eye for human-interest stories.

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