Haryana's caste divide shows up in Rohtak sisters controversy

The non-Jat groups have asked the Haryana government to reinstate the bravery award announced for the Rohtak sisters. The groups have also demanded that 'negative' publicity in the media against the girls be banned.

punjab Updated: Dec 12, 2014 17:52 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times

The controversy behind the videos showing Rohtak sisters thrashing their "molesters" on a moving bus and in a park is refusing to die down and now the entire episode has taken caste overtones with non-Jat groups asking the Haryana government to reinstate the bravery award announced for the girls.

The groups — Kabir Samaj, Ravidass Samaj, Sain Samaj, Jangra Samaj, Bairagi Samaj, Panchal Samaj, Kashyap Samaj, Kumhar Samaj, Dhiman Samaj, Teli Samaj and Jogi Samaj — have written to Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar threatening to launch a fast-unto-death protest if the CM fails to meet their demands within a week.

The groups have also demanded that "negative" publicity in the media against the girls — Aarti and Pooja — be banned.

The sisters belong to an Other Backward Class (OBC) community of Thana Khurd village in Sonepat.

The state government had announced earlier this month that it will honour the sisters at the Republic Day function and give an award of Rs. 31,000 each. It later decided to put the award and felicitation on hold.

The three men, who were beaten up by the sisters on a Haryana Roadways bus, were arrested and then released on bail while the bus driver and conductor were suspended and then later reinstated subject to internal inquiry.

Now, Harish Ahlawat, a Rohtak businessman, claims he saw one being 'filmed' at Rohtak's Tilyar lake complex when the sisters were allegedly thrashing and abusing a young man.

Ahlawat says he saw a boy filming a video about a month ago.

"The two sisters were hurling the choicest of expletives and thrashing a young man. I was with my wife and children. When I intervened and asked the boy why was he shooting a video of the girls, he threatened to fix me too. The young man whom they were fighting with told me later that they took away all the money from his wallet," he told HT.

New twist

While no witness has turned up in favour of the sisters after the video showing them taking on their "molesters" on a bus on November 28 went viral on social media, an "uncut" version of the bus video has now surfaced. It shows them asking a third girl, who allegedly filmed the incident, to return their phone.

A witness, Sonia Mittal, an MPhil student of Rohtak's Maharshi Dayanand University, too has claimed that Pooja gave her the phone to a girl to shoot the video in her affidavit and statement to the police. It contradicts the sisters' claim that the video was made by a woman on her mobile phone and sent to them through WhatsApp.

Mittal told HT, "The argument over the seat had ended and the boy had moved to the front area of the bus and there was complete silence for a few minutes. I heard Pooja telling a girl to help her by making a video."

"When the two sisters were hitting him, the boy jumped out when the bus slowed down. Pooja was holding him by his shirt and she, too, fell out of the bus with him. He pushed her to free himself but she ran after him and hit him with a stone. The boy then ran towards a sugarcane field. The girl who made the video got down before them," she added.

The sisters were showing the video to others soon after getting down from the bus at Kharkhauda, which was the last stop, Mittal said.

So far, nine witnesses have recorded their statements with the police.

Witnesses 'planted'

But the sisters and their lawyer, Attar Singh, rubbish the statements claiming the witnesses have been "planted".

"One of their witnesses is a relative of the main accused, Kuldeep, while one has not signed on his affidavit. Sonia Mittal has not given her address in the affidavit. Another witness, Naveen, has been shown travelling on the bus but his village does not even fall on that route. Our witnesses are being pressurised by social groups not to depose in the favour of the sisters," Singh claimed.

He also alleged the park video had been shot by a friend of the boy who was beaten up.

"It was made and uploaded by one of the boy's friends, who lives in Hansi, after the bus video went viral. The girls are not involved in its

recording. We have alerted the cyber cell of the police about it," Singh added.

Flanked by leaders of backward class and Dalit groups in the district court, Aarti and Pooja agree to share the bus video with the reporter but don't.

"They touched us and passed lewd comments. We will not tolerate this. Will you?" they ask.

A backward class leader, Virender Swami, says they are fighting for the "dignity of women".

With the case snowballing into a caste row, two Dalit witnesses from their village have also testified before the police in favour of the accused, Kuldeep, Mohit and Deepak. All the three men are from Asan village of Rohtak.

Moniya has in her affidavit claimed that she was travelling on the bus that day and saw no molestation taking place.

Sitting outside the Rohtak court with her father, Naresh, who claims to be a "personal singer" at the programmes of former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, she told HT, "The sisters told the boys that they beat up people like them everyday. Their language was very abusive. I came forward to give my version after seeing TV reports that they are being honoured," she said.

The other Dalit witness, Santosh, has deposed against them, though she was not travelling in the bus on that day.

First Published: Dec 11, 2014 09:10 IST