Haryana state BJP chief Subhash Barala’s son Vikas Barala and his friend Ashish Kumar were arrested on Saturday after the daughter of a senior IAS officer accused the two of stalking, wrongful restraint and driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
After a day-long flip-flop on the charges to include in the FIR, the Chandigarh police eventually charged Vikas and Ashish with bailable offences, under the IPC and Motor Vehicles Act, and they were released in the evening. Both the Haryana-cadre IAS officer, and his daughter, 29, a disc jockey, uploaded an account of her “horrific” experience on their Facebook accounts. In his Facebook post, the officer expressed the apprehension that the accused may go unpunished as they were from influential families, and hoped this would not happen.
The woman said that Vikas and Ashish followed her around for nearly 30 minutes as she drove home around midnight Friday, blocked her car repeatedly and tried to open her door. The victim was alone, driving from Sector 8 in Chandigarh to her home in Sector 6 Panchkula. According to the FIR, Vikas and Ashish spotted the woman near a fuel station and started following her. She was allegedly chased for nearly 7 km before police, reacting to a call made by her, caught the two. On medical examination, both were reportedly found to be drunk.
DSP Satish Kumar said, “The accused had purchased two cans of beer and consumed it while driving the Safari that belongs to Vikas’s relative. They kept following the woman and blocked her way several times. The woman called the Police Control Room at about 12.35 am and within 10 minutes, the accused were caught. Later, after receiving a formal complaint, we registered a criminal case against both of them and arrested them. Since the charges against them were bailable, both were released on bail.”
Preliminary investigations revealed that Vikas, who is a student of LLB in Kurukshetra University, was driving the vehicle. Ashish, a law graduate, was sitting beside him in the front. A resident of Fatehabad, Ashish had come to Chandigarh about a week ago. As news came of Vikas’s arrest, the Opposition demanded his father’s resignation. However, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, answering media’s queries at a public event, said, “This is not an issue of Subhash Barala but of a specific individual. Whatever action would be required against him, law would take its course.”
Talking to The Sunday Express, the woman said, “I am thankful to the Chandigarh police for promptly responding to my call. This could have gone worse.” Describing Friday night’s incident, she wrote on Facebook, “Was almost kidnapped on a Chandigarh road last night”. “There were 2 guys inside the SUV, and they seemed to really be enjoying harassing a lone girl in the middle of the night.”
Describing her condition, she wrote, “My hands shaking, my back spasming (sic) from fear, half in tears, half bewildered, because I didn’t know if I’d make it home tonight.” She added, “If this is what women deal with in one of the safer cities in the country, where are we going? I find it shocking, that in a place with cameras at every light and cops every 200 metres, these boys thought they could either get into my car, or take me into theirs, just because they’re from an influential background. I’m lucky, it seems, to not be the daughter of a common man, because what chance would they have against such VIPs? I’m also lucky, because I’m not lying raped and murdered in a ditch somewhere.”
Her father wrote, “As a father of two daughters, I feel compelled to take this matter to its logical conclusion. The goons must be punished, and the law must take its course. As would be expected, the goons are from influential families. We all know most such cases of harassment go unpunished and even unreported. Most people would not want or dare to take on goons from influential families. I feel if people with some privileges like us cannot stand up to such criminals, nobody in India can. More importantly, I will be failing in my duty as a father to my daughter if I did not stand with her completely in this matter.”
He added, “I am sharing this with you all for two reasons. One, to give a true and clear picture of what happened. Two, to get some assurance of support in case it’s needed. Our clear intention is to bring the culprits to book. We do not intend to harm the families or relatives. However, we know it’s not going to be an easy struggle. The possibility of harassment and witch-hunting, threats and even physical harm is undeniable, even though unlikely. Influential families can sometimes take desperate measures to discredit or disable the complainants. Sane friends may advise us against… action. We may be foolhardy. However, I know that the trauma and hurt my daughter has undergone cannot be undone. If we do not persist in trying to bring the guilty to justice, more and more daughters will suffer this hurt. Maybe some may not be as lucky as (my daughter). Someone has to stand up. We are standing. So long as we can.”