Scenes captured on video by a television journalist of a mob molesting and stripping a teenage girl in a city in north-east India have triggered outrage across the country, with many demanding to know why the journalists filmed the 30-minute assault rather than trying to help the young woman.
At least four men have been arrested by police in the aftermath of the attack. Officers said they were able to identify a number of the alleged participants from the footage that was broadcast on television and subsequently uploaded on to the internet. The media channel has defended the actions of its staff.
The incident in the city of Guwahati in the state of Assam on Monday evening has once again highlighted the dangers and threats often faced by women in India, a nation where sexual harassment is often referred to by the media as "eve-teasing". While north India has long had a reputation for often being a dangerous place for women, Assam reportedly has a higher than average rate of such incidents.
Yesterday, television channels repeatedly broadcast the footage of the beating and assault of the young woman, said to have taken place after she had been celebrating a friend's birthday in a bar. The country's home minister, P Chidambaram, said action would be taken against those involved. "[The] molestation of women anywhere in India is condemnable," he said.
The chief minister of the state, Tarun Gogoi, said: "No one has the right to molest anyone. I have asked the police to keep a vigil on the anti-social elements."
As police in Guwahati, the state capital, said they were continuing their investigation, protesters took to the streets, putting up posters of the alleged culprits and demanding that the authorities act. Meanwhile, a flurry of allegations regarding the purported political connections of several of those involved have also been levelled.
Police said the incident happened outside a bar on the city's GS Road. The young woman, said to be a 17-year-old fashion student, had been attending the birthday party of a friend. For some reason, the group was asked to leave the bar and got into an argument on the street. At that point, a group of up to 15 men started attacking and molesting the student, apparently stripping her of her clothes.
On social media, many have asked why the journalists from the NewsLive channel did not try to intervene, or at least go for help. The channel could not be contacted last night but on Twitter, the channel's editor-in-chief, Atanu Bhuyan, said: "Some [media] questioned me as to why my reporter and camera person shot the incident and didn't prevent the mob from molesting the girl. But I'm backing my team since the mob would have attacked them, prevented them from shooting, that would have only destroyed all evidence."
Activists said that more needed to be done to change the mindset of those involved in such incidents.
Girija Vyas, former chairperson of the National Commission for Women, told the Asian News International agency: "We can sit on the president's post, but even today our condition is such that any person moving on the road can tease us or misbehave with us. The mindset has not changed even now."
The developments came as it was revealed that elsewhere in northern India, a local village council issued an order banning so-called "love marriages" and preventing young women from taking evening walks unescorted. Last night, it was reported the police had booked 10 members of the council, or khap panchayat, located in a village less than 50 miles from Delhi, for issuing the order.