More horrific details of the Dec. 16 gang rape and assault of a 23-year-old Indian woman on a Delhi bus were revealed Friday by her male companion, a week after the woman succumbed to injuries sustained in the attack.
"I wish I could have saved her," said the man in an hour-long interview with the Zee News television channel. He was not named by the channel, but many other reports have identified him as Avaindra Pratap Pandey, 28, a software engineer.
According to the woman’s companion, the driver’s friends sat in the bus as though they were passengers and one even collected the bus fare, thus avoiding suspicion about their plans. When their questions and sexual remarks turned into a violent fight, the man says he took on three of them. But then one of his attackers struck his head with an iron rod, rendering him unconscious.
The assault was so well planned that the six alleged perpetrators, including one minor, took care to take away all their possessions and clothes to destroy evidence. Thereafter, according to the woman’s companion, the men tried to kill the couple by driving the bus over them, but the man said he pulled the woman to safety and the two survived.
It took 45 minutes for police to arrive. In that time, the man claimed, passers-by stared at the naked duo but did not stop to help. “They would just stare at us and leave,” he said. Only one person stopped to give him some cloth in the cold. “If a single person had helped me that night, things would have been different,” he said.
The man himself was injured severely—he is still nursing a leg fracture--but he had to put his woman friend in the police vehicle by himself. The police, he says, did not help for fear of staining their clothes with the blood. Calm and composed, he said the police took them to a government-run hospital faraway and not to a better private hospital nearby. Even at the hospital nobody gave them clothes. It was two hours after they were thrown on the road before the doctors treated the woman.
It was only when the woman gave her statement to a magistrate that the man heard the full details of how she was brutalized while he was unconscious. “Even animals won’t commit such violence,” he said, adding that it was incredible she could even recount the horrific details and the magistrate could hear them. He said that in her statement, his friend said she wanted the six accused to be burned alive.
According to earlier reports, an iron rod had been shoved up the woman’s vagina and her anus, and her intestines were already coming out when she was dumped on the road.
Her statement was taken a second time—allegedly to avoid recording details that implicated the Delhi police. "The first statement she gave was correct," her companion said.
He slammed the police for cracking down on protests even as they claimed to be doing a great job of investigating the case. “Why do they need to take credit for doing their duty?" the man asked. (The Delhi police department has threatened to sue the news channel for revealing the witness’s identity by showing him on air.)
In the televised interview, the man argued that it was not new laws but better policing that was required. He also urged all those who have marched in candle-lit protest marches to become more proactive when they actually have a chance to help the victim of a crime.
Clearly referring to the rape, he spoke of the social stigma attached to it: “In our society, we try to hide such things ... thinking what people will say. Our friends and relatives talk behind our back about such incidents, so we try to prevent them from becoming public.” He said he considered this before deciding whether he should claim it was an accident or a gang rape.
He also said he was plagued by guilt: “I often ask myself if I am to blame for this? Why did I go to that mall? Why did I board that bus? I was not able to even speak properly for two weeks.”