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See sisters fight harassers on bus
01:25 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Aarti and Pooja Kumar say they were being taunted at a bus stop by three men

The men followed them onto a bus; the 19- and 22-year-old decided to fight back

A video of the young women's actions has gone viral in India and been praised by officials

CNN  — 

Video of two sisters in India fighting back against men who allegedly harassed them has gone viral.

The footage shows Aarti and Pooja Kumar landing punches and thrashing the three men with a belt while riding a bus in the northern state of Haryana, an area with a reputation for hostility to women. Violence against women and rape in India have made international headlines in the past few years, and the scene of two women fighting back has sparked widespread praise on social media.

Aarti Kumar, 22, told CNN that she and Pooja, 19, were standing at a bus stop near their college Friday when the men came up to them and began taunting and throwing pieces of paper with their telephone numbers. The sisters tried to ignore the men but they persisted. Then they followed the sisters onto the bus, she said.

You’re too poor to even ride the bus, Kumar recalled the men saying.

So she and her sister did what they thought they had to do to defend and protect themselves. One lurched toward one of the men, thrashing what looks like a belt. Both grabbed one man’s sweater and pulled. Two of the men grabbed the women, and they struggled to get free. One sister pressed the palm of her hand against a man trying to overcome her. Aarti Kumar said that no one on the bus tried to help the sisters, and some passengers shouted for them to stop fighting the men and get off.

The men have been arrested, and charges are pending further investigation, police told CNN.

The video, shot by a passenger, has been shared in many news stories in India and inspired the Twitter hashtag “IFoughtThemBack.”

Some women are tweeting that they too have fought men who harassed them and are glad that the video is garnering so much attention.

In a highly unusual turn, the government is rewarding the Kumar sisters for their actions.

Harayana’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced that the sisters would be recognized with “bravery” awards that include cash on January 26, India’s Republic Day.

Kumar said her parents have been very supportive of her and her sister, also unusual because girls and women in some areas of India are often discouraged from reporting instances of harassment.

Stories of rape and sexual harassment in India have received much attention recently.

In June, three brothers confessed to raping two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh state. Police said at first that the suspects hanged their victims from a mango tree, but an investigation of their deaths concluded last week that the girls committed suicide.

A gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi in late 2012 brought into stark relief the danger that some women face in India. The crime ignited campaigns to call attention to violent crime that targets women.

CNN’s Ravi Agrawal, Elwyn Lopez, Mallika Kapur and Harmeet Singh contributed to this report.