Quick, Alert & Brave: How A Girl Filmed The Viral Gurugram Attack
"Mere naam ka matlab akalmand hain (My name means being mindful)," 21-year-old Daanishtha Siddiqui says with a wide grin. She shot the video which showed how at least 25 men from the Hindu Gujjar community brutally attacked her family on Holi in Gurugram's Bhondsi district.
Daanishtha believes she saved the lives of her family members because she began to shoot the mindless violence which allegedly began after a heated argument over a cricket game.
An FIR has been filed for offences including rioting and attempt to murder, among others, at the Bhondsi police station. While investigations are underway Daanishtha tells The Quint how she was quick to think, act, and preserve evidence when everyone wanted to get hold of her.
She had woken up that day in her home, around seven kilometers away, in Badshahpur.
She’d planned on visiting her uncle Sajid’s home that day. Sajid was one of the men who was most brutally attacked by the mob that day.
As they day progressed, the boys from the family stepped out for a game of cricket. The sun was about to set and she was cooking aloo and gobi pakodas (potato and cauliflower fritters) when she began to hear vehement screams from not too far away.
She followed what now sounded like abuses and saw angry men trying to enter her uncle's home, while her family pushed back.
"My uncle and brothers were looking back and screaming, telling me and my sisters to lock ourselves upstairs. That we could never know what the men could do to us if they entered," she says. Daanishtha quickly ran to the floors above for safety. This is when she heard them say"Pakistani hai ye! Pakistani hai ye!" repeatedly.
"They were also abusing us. They all looked out of control, like they were drunk," she recalls. "They had stones, sticks, and other weapons while we had nothing in our hands." Some men had managed to push open the main gates and enter. They hit the men and women, and on occasion children, the family says.
Shards of glass, broken beds, blood stains, and torn clothes littered the floor of the whole house. The house was built barely three years ago, when Sajid decided to move to Gurugram from Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district in the hope of finding better work and pay.
Daanishtha’s family, including her extended relatives, do the job of repairing home appliances in and around Bhondsi.
The only place off bounds for the mob was the terrace now.
Daanishtha was with her cousins here while her handicapped father, Mohammad Jamshad, was being moved to an elevated portion of the terrace.
He asked her if she was filming anything, confused by the question she noticed the way she was holding her phone.
"That is when I began shooting the video. When they saw me they got angrier. They kept saying "Is ladki ko pakdo" (grab this girl) but I didn’t stop shooting. They began to hide their face and weapons from the camera’s gaze, but verbally they only got more abusive. Everyone's eyes were on me now," she said.
The mob had reached the entrance of the terrace.
Now the only thing that stood between them and Daanishtha was an iron door, and her cousins who were using all their might to keep that door closed.
One of them was her elder sister 22-year-old Shaistha. "I was downstairs when I began to hear them say they wanted to catch hold of some girl. I came up and I saw my kid sister shooting a video. I was petrified they might kill her but I didn't ask her to stop," Shaistha says.
Similarly, her 14-year-old sister Muskaan who was also on the terrace said, "I was scared they’d take her phone away, and then we would have nothing to show as evidence."
It was after a minute or so that Daanishtha stopped. "I could have continued shooting but I had to stop. I thought I would lose what I had already shot," she said pointing The Quint towards the tiles on the edge of the balcony where she had hidden her camera phone.
"Chilla bhi main rahi thi, ro bhi main rahi thi aur video bhi main hi bana rahi thi. (I was the one screaming. I was the one crying and I was also the one shooting the video.)" How did the video become viral? "I handed it over to my uncle who forwarded it to people he knew," she says.
As a child, Daanishtha dreamed of being a doctor. She still wants to fulfill her dream, but dropped out of school in Class 10 to support her mother at home.
“After my father became handicapped because of a mishap while he was doing labour work, I had to start helping my mother at home,” she said, adding that she has three sisters.
Daanishtha showed The Quint the ladder her father climbed, to find a place to hide from the mob. As you climb the ladder, a giant Tricolour comes into view on Sajid’s roof, waving against the warm sunset.
"They kept saying that we were Pakistanis," Daanishtha says, staring off into the distance.