Even though shock had paralysed their senses, there are some things about Saturday’s assault the victims are unlikely to forget — allegedly being called prostitutes during the entirety of the assault, and chants of ‘hodi’ (‘hit’ in Kannada) as Hindutva activists egged each other on.
Jahnavi and Namitha (names changed) were among five women who were beaten up at Morning Mist Homestay, a house rented out for parties, at Padil on the outskirts of the city. Having arrived there at 2.30 p.m., they spent the next four hours cutting Namitha’s birthday cake, clicking pictures and sharing the occasion with friends.
Around 6.30 p.m. when the party — which was to be followed by another student’s birthday party — was winding up, the Hindutva group barged in. “Around 50 people rushed into the house, and suddenly started beating us. While not giving an explanation for their actions, they didn’t allow us to prove our innocence,” Jahnavi told The Hindu. “They slapped me hard and repeatedly. I was thrown to the floor and kicked in the abdomen. They even touched me everywhere (inappropriately) on purpose,” she added.
Namitha saw the mob approaching the house when she was on the balcony. “I was getting ready to leave as my parents wanted me home before dark. From the balcony, I could see the mob rushing towards the house. I rushed through the store room, jumped into the garden and tried to escape by scaling the compound wall,” she said.
A group of men, who separated themselves from the mob, chased her. She was assaulted and carried back into the house. They accused her of consuming marijuana at the party, and her vehement denials were met with shouts of “prostitute”. “They dragged me into a room, along with the other girls. I reckon at least five men were assaulting each girl. We were made to sit in front of the camera,” she said. “Paraded” for the cameras, Jahnavi said the stage-managed show even saw one of the boys being stripped and forced on the bed where she and another girl were made to sit. “The men had ripped his shirt. We didn’t even know him as he had come for the other birthday party. I believe the men were trying to make it look like they caught us in bed,” she said.
An angry “What is happening?” from one of the girls was met with abuses followed by a slap. Telecast incessantly on Saturday evening and Sunday, this action caught on film seemed to be the defining image of the assault. “She couldn’t stop crying after that. We just huddled together and tried to hide from the cameras,” said Jahnavi.
Even in the security of their homes, the trauma refuses to die down. As their blurred images flash across news channels, and as TV debates question the girls’ morality, Namitha said it seemed like the worst was yet to come. “How am I going to show my face in my college? How many people can I go around convincing that I have done nothing wrong?” she asked.