Indian media: 'Sexual harassment' story doubted

TV grab of the incident Image copyright Press Trust of India
Image caption The incident was captured by a passenger on a mobile phone

Indian newspapers continue to produce claims and counter claims about the two sisters filmed beating three men allegedly sexually harassing them on a bus in the northern state of Haryana.

Several media have cast doubt on the initial version of events in the video, which went viral and generated a wave of support for sisters Aarti and Pooja Kumar.

Another video has since emerged showing the pair apparently attacking a man in a park in a separate incident.

Now The Times of India reports that five other women passengers on the bus in the initial film have testified to police that the fight was caused by a dispute about seats and that no sexual harassment was involved.

One of the alleged witnesses is quoted telling local media that the girls had lashed out at the men after being asked to vacate a seat to a woman passenger who was feeling unwell.

According to another villager, the sisters have a reputation for picking fights, while a third is quoted saying that there was "no molestation".

Pooja Kumar has told the BBC that the men had attacked and abused her sister. The three men were arrested and have now been released on bail.

Further muddying the waters, an article the Deccan Herald attributes the testimony of other women bus passengers to a "fierce mudslinging campaign" against them.

Meanwhile, The Hindustan Times reports that two witnesses of the park incident have emerged who say the sisters had attacked the man after he had chided them for wasting their time in a park rather than attending college.

For G Pramod Kumar, writing in Firstpost, however, the new revelations - even it true - in any case do nothing to disrupt the narrative of two women bravely challenging male dominance and ingrained stereotypes of women.

"For a change, they have provided a new example of expressing female anger," he says. "It's an eruption of anger arising out of helplessness and loss of patience because the country has cheated them and oppressed them."

"Its time men got scared of women's anger and ability to hit back. It's time to amplify female anger in its raw form.

New broom

Papers also focus on the task ahead of the new head of India's troubled top investigative agency.

According to the New Indian Express, Harvard graduate Anil Sinha, 58, has a "tough task to restore the credibility of the agency".

The CBI has been under a cloud since his predecessor, Ranjit Sinha (no relation), was found to have allowed a minister to edit the agency's report into a high-profile scandal surrounding the government's allocation of coal fields.

He was subsequently removed from an investigation into a multi-billion-dollar scandal relating to the handing out of 2G mobile licences.

Like his predecessor, Sinha is from the central state of Bihar, where both men served in the state police force, according to Firstpost.

The Economic Times describes as Anil Sinha as "low-profile and hard-working" man who "managed to retain his reputation as an honest officer" during investigations in yet another scandal - the 2013 collapse of the Saradha Group ponzi scheme.

Whatever Mr Sinha's virtues, the Hindustan Times argues that the CBI needs wider structural change, in particular greater financial autonomy to insulate it from political interference.

"An ambitious country like India cannot continue to have its leading investigation agency dogged by controversy and inefficiency," the daily says.

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