For 25 minutes, they lay by the road naked and crying for help. Passing drivers slowed down, looked at them, but did not stop.
The 23-year-old woman who was gang-raped and beaten inside a moving bus last month had been thrown out onto the street to die, along with her male friend.
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India gang rape: 'nobody helped us'
A friend who was with the Indian student who died after being gang raped says things may be different if passers-by had stopped to help.
But even when police finally arrived, they wasted more than 20 minutes arguing about who had jurisdiction over the crime before even covering the couple with a blanket against onlookers' stares, the boyfriend of the young student said on Indian television on Friday.
The assault sparked protests across India, along with demands for better protection of women and stricter punishment for rapists.
But the details of what happened immediately after the incident, as disclosed by the rape victim's friend in his first lengthy interview, served as a harsh reminder not only of the inept policing to which Indians have become accustomed, but also of the public indifference many Delhi residents display toward the less fortunate, whether they be beggars banging on their car windows or accident victims.
The two young people were returning home after watching a movie in an upscale Delhi mall when they boarded the bus. For two hours, they were beaten with iron rods and robbed, and the woman was sexually assaulted. The woman suffered severe intestinal injuries.
''We were screaming for help from inside the bus,'' the young man, sitting with his leg in a cast, told the Hindi-language Zee News channel's interviewer.
The channel did not name the man, calling him simply ''India's hero'' but police said the news channel would be charged under laws pertaining to disclosure of identity in a rape case, the Press Trust of India reported.
''We tried to catch the attention of people outside the bus but they had switched off the lights,'' the man said. ''We were fighting back. They took away all our belongings, our clothes. They were five to six people. She tried to call the 100 number [of the police] but they snatched away her phone.''
The attackers then threw the couple out of the bus into the cold night and tried to run over them, he said. ''We didn't have clothes. We kept waiting for someone to come and help us. I waved my hand at all the passing vehicles. Auto-rickshaws, cars and bikes on the road slowed down, looked at us but didn't stop to help.''
Then one onlooker called the police. ''The police finally came but they kept arguing among themselves and could not decide which police station this case belonged to,'' the man said. ''We kept pleading to them: 'Get us an ambulance. Give us clothes to wear.' About 20 onlookers stood there and were watching us. Finally someone tore off a bedcover and gave it to me to cover her.''
But no ambulance came. The police did not even pick the woman up, he said. ''I picked her up and put her inside the Jeep. Maybe the police did not want to soil their hands with all the blood,'' he recalled. They did not arrive at a hospital until more than two hours after the incident.
At the hospital, the man said he sat on the floor, shivering, and repeatedly asked for a blanket. Finally, a cleaning boy gave him a piece of cloth.
The young man appealed to viewers to always offer help to a person in need on the street. He urged the protesters not to halt their efforts to bring change. ''Don't let what you have done all these days go to waste.''
The Washington Post