Almost four years ago, on November 28, 2014, two sisters, Pooja and Aarti from Kharkhauda, Rohtak accused three men of sexual harassment on a bus that they were travelling in. In a viral video, the girls could be seen hitting the boys with a belt and one of the sisters even threw a stone at them.
The boys had to get down from the bus and flee. After a video of the incident went viral, the sisters were hailed as #RohtakBravehearts who had the courage to stand up to their harassers. Via a media trial, the boys were immediately declared guilty. The then Haryana CM announced a cash prize of Rs 31,000 for each of the sisters. Later, discrepancies were found in their report, but not before ruining the lives of the three accused boys.
On September 11, 2018, the truth finally came out. For the second time, Kuldeep, Deepak and Mohit, the three accused in the case were declared innocent by a Sessions Court of Haryana. Last year in March 2017, they were acquitted by a Rohtak court as well.
Kuldeep and Deepak, who were coming back after giving a college exam, were asked by an old woman to help her buy a bus ticket. They helped the old woman and when they got on the bus, an altercation started after they asked Pooja and Aarti to vacate a seat for the old woman. The girls took offence and picked up a fight and then accused the men of harassment. Deepak, who got on the bus when the fight was going on, got involved in the tussle.
A few days after that, another video was circulated, which was claimed to be a month old of the same sisters, beating up a man in a park. They also accused him of harassment. Later, eyewitnesses of the bus incident came forward and clarified that it was indeed a fight over bus seats and not about harassment. The Logical Indian along with Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj interviewed the villagers to bring out the truth.
Following these turn of events, the girls voluntarily requested for a Polygraph and Psychological Assessment Test (PAT) to prove their version of the incident. However, the results came out ‘unsatisfactory’ for the girls, while the accused men passed the tests.
By this time, the accused three men had been released on bail. Further, another man, reportedly, came forward and claimed he was being victimised by these girls. He was being accused of molestation. He eventually had to pay Rs 20,000 to have these charges withdrawn.
After taking into consideration the eyewitness account of the 40 people present on the bus and PAT, ACJM (Additional Chief Justice Magistrate), Harish Goyal released the three men on March 3, 2017. This decision was challenged and the case was taken up by a Sessions Court. The Judge said that the girls failed the PAT and also they lied about the fact that they were thrown off the bus by the boys, while the video clearly showed that the boys had to get down and flee because of the beating that they were receiving. The Court also said that there was no chance of overturning the first judgement as there were no irregularities or discrepancies in the investigation and the subsequent judgement.
“Our lives are ruined”
“When the incident happened, my family did not let me continue my studies and did not even let me get a job. They were scared that something like this would be repeated again,” says Deepak to The Logical Indian. He says that now he has crossed the age where he can apply for the job he wanted four years back.
“When the discrepancies were found in the girls’ report, the then Haryana Chief Minister said that if it is proved that we are not guilty, then we would be given a job. Now, it has almost been a month that we have been acquitted for the second time, but CM has still not met us,” an emotional Kuldeep says to The Logical Indian.
In their early twenties, both of them are right now in desperate need of a job. They had to stop their studies because of the case that was filed against them four years back. Kuldeep and Deepak also cracked the army’s physical test but were not allowed to sit for the written test after the media started flashing their faces on prime time news and declared them molesters. Mohit, the third accused is also known to be without a job since then.
Deepak further says that he is currently in desperate need of a job as his parents have been taken ill. He says “There is no age restriction for studying. I would like to study now but my situation would not let me. Both my parents have fallen ill and I need money to take care of them. I toil in the field day and night trying to earn some money, but as you know nature can be harsh. Sometimes, we get a good yield but sometimes we don’t. I need a stable job so that I can take care of my parents.”
Their families have also made immense sacrifices for these boys. “Hum teen toh gareeb ghaar ke hain” (We are not from affluent families). From ‘settling’ the matter with the police, to paying for repeated rounds in the court for various trivial issues, these families have done it all to prove that they are innocent.
When asked what would they like to say to the sisters, because of whom they are right now in a situation like this, Deepak said “I respect women. Now, because of them, girls who are actually harassed, would not be taken seriously.”
Kuldeep has only one demand, he needs a job and soon.
The Logical Indian is not passing a judgement in the case. We are merely trying to focus on the fact that false cases like these dumb down the severity of the true cases of sexual violence against women. Also, the lives of these three boys have been ruined by the media frenzy. They could not continue their studies, their army job, for which they cleared the first round, was gone and now, they are working in the fields trying to earn a living for themselves. We hope strict action is taken against people who falsely accuse people of sexual crimes.
Input from Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj