New Delhi, Dec. 13: The two sisters from Haryana who were captured on camera at least twice thrashing young men asserted today that they were not "serial assaulters or extortionists" but had only vented their anger at men who harassed them.
Pooja, 19, and Aarti, 22, were invited to Delhi by the Indian Women's Press Corps to give their side of the story.
The girls were initially feted when a video of them hitting with a belt men who had allegedly harassed them on a bus went viral. The Haryana government even promised a Republic Day award. But after another video of the two beating up another man surfaced, the award was put on hold.
"We stood for our self-respect," Aarti told the news conference. "But after initially calling us 'bravehearts,' people are now labelling us serial assaulters and alleging we did it for extorting money. It is demoralising."
The families of the youths, who belong to the influential Jat community, have alleged that the boys were the real victims. A few witnesses have also told police the men had not misbehaved. The men were released on bail.
Aarti today said: "They had passed lewd comments and gestures even before we boarded the bus, but we did not retaliate. It was only when they started physically harassing us that we were forced to hit them back."
Pooja chipped in: "Whatever we did was in self-defence."
The sisters, who are both studying for a Bachelor of Computer Applications degree in a Rohtak college, said their family was under "intense pressure" to withdraw the police complaint. "So much so that we even thought of committing suicide," Aarti said.
Jagmati Sangwan of the All India Democratic Women's Association demanded that a special investigation team of Haryana police be set up to probe the case and complete its investigation before Republic Day. "These girls come from a minority caste from the OBC community which does not have political influence," said Sangwan, adding she too was being pressured to stop supporting the girls.