The 23-year-old gangrape victim’s friend appeared on television on Friday evening to say that while the protests against the crime were welcome, the fact remains that no one from the public had tried to help the two of them on December 16 as they lay beaten and bloodied on the road for nearly half an hour.
“If we are lighting candles to support someone, I feel that we should also help someone who is lying on the road. We were without clothes. We tried to stop people passing by. For about 25 minutes, several auto-rickshaws, cars and bikes slowed down but no one stopped. Then someone called the police. Three PCR vans arrived after 45 minutes, before that no one came to help us,” the victim’s friend said in an interview to Sudhir Chaudhary, editor of Zee News.
“We didn’t have clothes, we were not able to stand and there were people passing by... They could have taken us to hospital, given us clothes in that crucial one and a half hours. For a dying person, every minute is important,” he said, adding that even when the police finally took them to hospital, “no one even brought us a blanket”.
“At the hospital, we had to wait and I had to literally beg for clothes. I managed to borrow a mobile from someone to call my family,” the friend, who is the only witness to the horrific assault on the woman, said.
He also said that the police had delayed taking them to hospital. “Three PCR vans fought over which police station had jurisdiction, which delayed our admission to hospital,” he said.
Soon after the interview was aired, Delhi Police decided to register a case against Zee News. The case would be registered under section 228 A of the Indian Penal Code, which pertains to the disclosure of the identity of a victim of certain offences, including rape, Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said.
Sudhir Chaudhary, who interviewed the victim’s friend, is currently on bail after having spent nearly three weeks in police and judicial custody after he was arrested in November 2012 for allegedly demanding Rs 100 crore from Jindal Steel & Power Ltd in return for stopping a series of negative reports about the company. The editor of Zee Business, Samir Ahluwalia, too was arrested for the alleged extortion bid.
The victim’s friend told Zee News that the incident continued to haunt him. “I blame myself for ever going there, for ever taking that bus.
I keep thinking I should have waited for an auto longer, maybe the next auto would have agreed to go... My only regret is that I could not save my friend that night,” he told Zee News.
The victim’s friend told Chaudhary that they had tried to hire an auto-rickshaw from the mall where they had gone. “There were lots of autos, but they either refused or said they wouldn’t go by the meter. Finally one auto agreed to take us to the bus stop where we boarded the bus,” he said.
The friend said he had been “shocked” to hear that the victim had had to give her statement twice. “I was with her the evening her statement was first recorded, to support her. She described the incident in great detail, even though she was coughing while trying to speak. The doctors told her to take a break, but she said she wanted to complete the statement. I was shocked when I heard that the SDM had said that the statement was taken under pressure,” he said.
The friend said that the victim had told the magistrate that the culprits should be burnt alive. “I heard her tell the SDM to burn them alive instead of hanging them,” he said in the interview.
The friend told Zee News that had the victim been treated “in a good hospital from the beginning, she might have been with us today”. He said he felt that the decision to move her to Singapore had been taken under pressure from the public. “It seemed like... so much protest had taken place that day, so let’s take her to Singapore. If they really had sympathy, the decision should have been taken at the right time. One gives water to a thirsty person when he is thirsty and not later, when the person is dead,” he said.
Asked if he felt that top police officers should have resigned, he told Chaudhary, “The police is not one person, it is a system. And if the system is repeatedly failing, if the people who are in charge have even 0.1 per cent responsibility, they should give up their posts on moral grounds.”
He added that even now, “nothing has stopped..., such cases are continuing every day”.
About the police, he said, “You say that you have done a good job, caught six people and identified them within record time. But why do you need to pat your own back? This was your duty in the first place... I think police meet people, see them and deal with them accordingly. My father and others in my family are lawyers so they knew how things work. In general, police may not even meet the aam admi, or register an FIR.”
The friend said the assault had been planned in advance by the men on the bus, all of whom except the driver and helper had pretended to be passengers.
“The bus tinted windows and curtains, and the occupants trapped us. They beat us, hit us with an iron rod, snatched our clothes and belongings and threw us off the bus. They had everything planned. Apart from the driver and helper, others behaved like they were passengers. We even paid Rs 20 as fare. Then they started harassing my friend and that led to a fight. I beat three of them, but then the rest brought an iron rod and hit me. Before I fell unconscious, they took my friend away,” he told the channel.
He said that while they were being assaulted, they had tried to attract the attention of people on the road. “We were shouting, trying to make people hear us. But they switched off the lights. We tried to resist them. Even my friend fought with them, she tried to save me. She tried to dial police control room number 100, but the men snatched her mobile phone,” he said.
He added that the rapists had tried to run them over after throwing them off the bus. “They tried to crush us, but I managed to pull my friend away,” he said.
He told the channel that no one from the government had approached him for physical or psychological treatment since the incident. “For the past 3-4 days I am getting counselled at a private hospital, at my own expense... Till now, no politician has tried to contact me,” he said.
Describing his interaction with his friend in hospital, he said, “She had confidence in me. I told her that those men have been caught. She couldn’t speak but she would talk by writing on paper. But she could hear me. I told her that I was there to fight for her.
“I never thought she would die. I knew her, she was a fighter. Even when I met her a few days after the incident in hospital, she seemed positive... Her mother looked really broken, and in front of me she told her mother not to worry, that all would be ok,” he said.