They just sat there

A video of two young women fighting off a man on a bus has gone viral.

A video showing two sisters in northern India hitting back at men who allegedly harassed them on a crowded bus has drawn huge attention in a country where hundreds of thousands of women silently endure sexual harassment daily.

The video, filmed by a passenger and aired on several television channels Monday, shows the two young women hitting, punching and beating their harassers with a belt, as other passengers silently look on. The women, identified only by their first names, Arati and Pooja, told reporters that they lashed out at the men after enduring lewd comments and pawing from them.

Watch it; it’s quite astonishing. The man keeps on grabbing at them and the passengers just fucking sit there. One guy does finally pull the grabber back, but everyone else just sits like lumps, including whoever filmed the attack on a phone. They just sit there! The girls are small and slender, but the passengers just sit there.

I’ve seen altercations on buses and I’ve never seen people just placidly sit and watch. It’s a horrible sight.

“No one came to our help. In fact, they tried to stop us and scare us by saying the men would come for us and attack us or throw acid on us,” one of the sisters told New Delhi Television channel.

No Tuğçe Albayraks on that bus.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    No Tuğçe Albayraks on that bus.

    Nope. Just people who got to go home to their families that night.

    Shame on your for judging people for not risking their lives to defend a stranger. Sure, people who do that are heroes. Are all who don’t cowards? I don’t see you signing up for the police or military…

  2. John Horstman says

    What were they complaining about? That’s just some groping by strangers in a place where honor killings still happen, so obviously they should only ever complain about the worst thing that ever happens to women. /Dawkins

  3. freemage says

    sonofrojblake: There’s still things that can be done. How many of those folks had cell phones? At least the one who made the video, yes? Calls to the police can be made immediately. Shouting, “I’ve called the police” after you’ve done so will also scare the perpetrators off, rather than inducing them to continue their attack. How about stepping forward once the news breaks to tell the cops what you witnessed?

  4. says

    Risking their lives? Why would they have been risking their lives? It was just some guy; if all the passengers had intervened they would have been able to stop him. The guy was taller and heavier than the very slight girls, that’s all, he wasn’t Godzilla.

    And I don’t see you signing up for the police or military either, because I don’t know a god damn thing about you, just as you don’t know anything about me.


  5. quixote says

    sonofrojblake: There is plenty of evidence at this point, i.e. of the scientific variety, that the main enabling factor for bullying and similar forms of abuse is bystander passivity.

    Going home to your family is not the most important thing in the world. And — this is the point — everybody gets to go home to their families if bystanders don’t just sit there. So it’s very important to understand that.

  6. Ray Moscow says

    One doesn’t have to fight the perps (usually a bad idea anyway) to interfere with abusive behaviour. Just calling it out can be enough.

  7. freemage says

    Oh, and in addition, among those sitting by and doing nothing were the bus driver and the ticket-taker. You know, the government employees to whom the rest of the passengers would be most likely to defer? Had the driver simply pulled up to a police station, or next to a cop, the entire situation could’ve been dealt with immediately. (Credit where credit is due Dept: I heard this pointed out on BBC coverage of the video.)

  8. says

    It gets worse (link courtesy of a tweet by @WomenUndrSiege, via @365newsbreak):

    According to the above link, not only did no one come to the aid of the two women defending the pregnant woman against three harassers, passengers on the bus attempted to dissuade them from filing a police complaint, and eventually the two women were thrown off the moving bus.

  9. sonofrojblake says

    Why would they have been risking their lives?

    You invoked Tuğçe Albayrak, someone who lost their life calling out abuse.

    And no, you don’t see me signing up for the military again, but also you don’t see me judging people for making risk assessments and acting on them. I absolutely applaud anyone who takes a stand, and if placed in that position I hope I’d have the fortitude to do so. But slagging off those who don’t, without any idea about them? No. There’s just no need for that.

  10. johnthedrunkard says

    Stalkers and assaulters and harrasers AREN’T just ‘boys being boys!’ Even in a culture where standards of conduct are as shockingly low as India. Of course the failure of the social contract is even more disturbing than the initial attacks. But the ‘why didn’t you call the police? aren’t there “ways to stop” X?’ lines are shockingly close to the blame heaped on the victims themselves.

    Standing up to public violence is risking one’s life. The man stabbed 9 times in SF, and Albayrak in Germany are testimony enough. A solidarity of non-approval, of richly deserved disgust and horror, MIGHT stop many of these incidents. But I suspect that many of the perpetrators are full-tilt sociopaths.

  11. says

    Bullshit. This was a bus full of people, with one guy physically assaulting a much smaller young woman. He wouldn’t have murdered them all if they’d told him to stop. Sitting there placidly is not “risk assessment”; it’s indifference or even approval.

    Yes, there’s initial hesitation, but then if one person makes a move others join in, and the group simply overwhelms the aggressor. The bystander effect can mean that no one makes the first move, but it doesn’t always.

  12. sonofrojblake says

    He wouldn’t have murdered them all if they’d told him to stop

    The risk he’d murder them ALL is close to zero.

    The risk he’d murder ONE – the first one – is non-zero.

    You are betting your life on the second scenario – not the first.

  13. says

    You’re being ridiculous. You’re treating these sensational and horrifying events as if their horror and sensation made them representative. They are not common. It’s far more risky to ride in a car, but we all do that without even thinking about it.

    You also seem to be forgetting that harassment of women is common as dirt in India. Is it really likely when the behavior is ubiquitous that the perps are all likely to murder anyone who challenges them?

    Of course not. You’re making a fatuous, unskeptical risk assessment, and talking as if it were self-evident.

  14. says

    My guess: the bysitters didn’t try to stop the man because he was scary, and because they thought they’d be criticized/attacked for going against a normal practice of harassing women on buses. Then when the women fought back, they didn’t intervene because they secretly thought the man deserved it. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic about the passengers’ motives, but I’m just trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  15. says

    My guess has been all along that the bysitters didn’t do anything because “Eve teasing” is so routine (as indicated by the cutesy nickname for harassment and assault). My guess is that that normalization meant that they considered the women’s fighting back was just a brawl between two parties, and none of their business – and not worth getting a poke in the eye or similar, so to that extent I don’t disagree with sonof.

  16. Ben Finney says

    Meanwhile, a fictional video made in response by Dipankar Gupta seems to ask “what about the menz”. A young man just wants to ride the bus, accidentally bumps a woman twice when the bus changes speed, gets slapped by her and harrassed by all the nasty women on the bus.

    Don’t fear, though: the story has a happy ending for our protagonist. He moves to a different rail, the woman bumps him accidentally, and he slaps her. See? All equal and justified in this most Just of Just Worlds.

    The video makes the point clear in case we missed it: A text card at the end cites the Indian Constitution’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender.

    You know? Like all the gender-based discrimination men are always suffering on buses in India for accidentally touching women? Now that women are in a frenzy of false accusations and hitting men on buses? Yeah, that’s what the author of this story wants us to know is really important.

  17. sonofrojblake says

    You’re treating these sensational and horrifying events as if their horror and sensation made them representative. They are not common. It’s far more risky to ride in a car, but we all do that without even thinking about it.

    I’d be prepared to bet folding money that when you ride in a car, you wear a seatbelt, even if it’s not mandated by law. Why? Those photos you’ve seen of people with their faces bruised and slashed to pieces by broken glass are sensational and horrifying, but they’re not representative. Most of the time – in fact almost every time – you’ll be fine not wearing a seatbelt.

    Also, the alternative to riding in a car is what? Now who’s being ridiculous?

    This is a variation on the trolley problem. The train is rushing towards the five random people on the main track. You can do nothing – you didn’t set up the situation after all, so leaving it to play out doesn’t make you morally responsible for those five deaths. Or you can pull the lever, and in the common formulation of the problem that lever diverts the train onto a sidetrack that kills just one innocent worker. Your intervention will lead directly to a death that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, but will save five. Studies have shown that most people take the utilitarian route, pull the lever, and take the responsibility for killing the innocent bystander for the greater good.

    Except here, the lever diverts the train onto one of many, many other tracks – you have no idea which, or even how many there are. But you know you’re standing on one of them. It might end in no casualties at all. In fact it probably will. It will probably be alright. You *probably* won’t be killed, today, without warning, for no reason, just to save a bunch of people you don’t know.

    Would you pull the lever?

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