A terrified woman screaming from inside a locked van sparks little or no reaction from passersby in Delhi in a shocking display of the level of apathy that exists in India where a series of gruesome rapes and murders have caused global outrage.
A campaigning group – appropriately called ‘YesNoMaybe’ – posted the video on YouTube this week as part of a social experiment to gauge people’s indifference to violence against women.
The video, which has been viewed more than a million times, shows a white van parked in a deserted area of the Indian capital with the windows blacked out.
The woman’s screams are clearly audible but a handful of men are seen walking or cycling by. Several stop to listen before moving on.
Women’s activist Ranjana Kumari told AFP that the video was evidence of India’s general apathy towards the plight of its women.
“There’s still an apathy about what’s happening to women, an insensitivity on the issue, although attitudes are changing”.
After several men walk by, a young man tries to break into the van, attempting to help.
‘Yes No Maybe’ posted the video in the wake of the horrific attacks on two girls, aged 12 and 14, late last month in Uttar Pradesh state.
The attacks reignited anger over violence against women with small-scale protests held in the state capital and in Delhi, while a political row erupted over a perceived lack of law and order in Uttar Pradesh.
Since then, the media has highlighted a string of alleged rapes and hangings of women in Uttar Pradesh, a state with a population larger than Brazil and increasingly the most lawless in India.
The attacks came just 18 months after the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in Delhi, a case that made global headlines and left India reeling over its treatment of women.
The video sparked an outcry online, with some saying they were “ashamed”, while others said the lack of help was probably reflective of attitudes in most capital cities.
The group that posted the video did not draw any conclusions.
“We hear about rapes every day in India, which leads to widespread protest,” the group said in a message accompanying the video.
“Thousands of people attend candlelight marches but only a handful of people act when it really matters.
“So we set out to find how many people would actually help if someone’s in trouble.”
Kumari told AFP that many were reluctant to intervene, fearful of being dragged into a lengthy police investigation or even face charge themselves in India’s notoriously inefficient criminal justice system.
“There is also still this rationale that the woman must have done something to deserve the attack. There must be some justification for what is happening to her,” said Kumari, director of the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research.
Social scientist Shiv Visvanathan said he was wary of drawing conclusions from the video but he said many Delhi residents were scared of being attacked themselves if they intervened.
Visvanathan, a professor at the Jindal Global University just outside Delhi, said the capital drew millions of young men from impoverished and remote rural areas searching for work.
As a result, he told AFP: “There’s an absence of a community spirit in many parts of Delhi, a feeling that we should work together to stop these attacks happening.
“It’s a city of strangers.”