In the age of smartphones and internet, the video of the now-famous Rohtak sisters thrashing their alleged molesters on Friday while coming home on a Haryana bus went viral. It was embraced as a much-needed show of pluck, perhaps because it fit so seamlessly into our want to see women becoming empowered.
This was especially heartening coming from the patriarchal badlands of Haryana. National and international media boldfaced the story.
The earnestness in their voices combined with a valour that appeared unswayed by any fear of retribution made them icons.
And then the cracks appeared.
A second video emerged of the same Rohtak 'bravehearts' beating up another boy - this time in a park. The coincidences between the two videos spawned a series of questions, most still unanswered.
In both cases, the person who shot the sisters remains a mystery.
Add to that, Pooja, one of the sisters brashly claiming that there would be more videos because she had been harassed more than 2000 times in 19 years of her life - and had beaten up whichever boy she could lay her hands on!
Day 3. As the debate raged online as well as offline, there were more twists and turns. Some reports said that an eyewitness turned hostile, saying the girls were the ones who beat the boys and not the other way round.
It was also the same day on which the bus conductor, who along with the driver was suspended for not coming to the aid of the girls, said that he had warned the boys repeatedly not to harass the sisters.
The caste equations of the Sonepat village in Haryana can't be forgotten. The girls and boys do not belong to the same village. After all, this is a state where parents don't think twice about killing their own children who dare to marry outside their caste to protect their honour.
The young sisters are from a backward caste and are taking on three upper caste Jat boys who were poised to enter the army. That chance has been stanched with their arrest.
Some say that the entire village is combining to protect the boys by undermining the sisters' claims of what played out on the bus.
An elderly lady has surfaced today brandishing a bus ticket from six days ago - her stake to claim as an eyewitness. She too has said the girls are lying, that the fight was over seats and the girls attacked the boys. With the defence lawyer firmly visible in every frame with the only eyewitness, could this testimony be as staged as many now say the viral video was.
The promised medals and cash rewards for the girls have now been put on hold and the Chief Minister has promised an impartial inquiry to establish the truth.
How long that will take? Can it really be impartial in a Jat-dominated Haryana?
The questions are flying far faster than answers.
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