As the investigation into the alleged stalking of an IAS officer’s daughter in Chandigarh by Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala’s son Vikas Barala continues, the state police has been facing flak over the issue even as they have said they’re not in any hurry to include charge of ‘kidnapping bid’ in the FIR against the accused. UT Senior Superintendent of Police Eish Singhal, in a five-minute interaction with the media, said, “We are not working under any political pressure. Otherwise why would we register an FIR on the first day. We are investigating the case on merit. Our technical analysis of the CCTVs installed on the route on which the complainant was allegedly stalked, is going on. Once we complete our technical analysis, we shall proceed accordingly. In case any other section is required to be added in the FIR, we shall do that. So far, we have not included kidnapping bid charge in the FIR.”
The Chandigarh stalking case
The woman, 29, a disc jockey, has accused Subhash Barala’s son Vikas Barala and his friend of stalking, wrongful restraint and driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. She is the daughter of senior Haryana-cadre IAS officer V S Kundu. As per the woman, Barala’s son Vikas and Ashish followed her around for nearly 30 minutes as she drove home around midnight on Friday, blocked her car repeatedly and tried to open her door. She has alleged that she was driving alone from Sector 8 in Chandigarh to her home in Sector 6 Panchkula, when the incident took place.
A case was registered at Sector 26 police station. According to the FIR, the accused persons spotted the woman near a petrol pump and began following her. She was allegedly chased for around 7 km before the police reacted to her call and nabbed Vikas and Ashish. As per the medical report, both were reportedly found to be drunk. Chandigarh Deputy Superintendent of Police Satish Kumar said both Vikas and Ashish were booked under section 354 D (stalking) of IPC and 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act (driving by a drunken person or by a person under the influence of drugs).
Chandigarh stalking case: The woman’s reaction
Speaking with the The Sunday Express, the woman had said that she is thankful to the Chandigarh Police for responding promptly to her call. “This could have gone worse,” she had said. She also wrote a Facebook post describing the Friday night’s incident, “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.”
Chandigarh stalking case: Her father’s reaction
Senior Haryana-cadre IAS officer V S Kundu was determined to fight the case of stalking of her daughter to the end. He had said on Monday that “supporters of criminals” have begun a smear campaign aimed at “character assassination” of his daughter, adding that the family will not buckle under pressure and is “mentally prepared” to battle it out. Speaking to the Indian Express on the ordeal, Kundu said: “Baseless posts are being posted on social media by taking photographs from my daughters’ Facebook account and the internet. This is pressure tactic.”
In a statement, 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.” Also Read: Pressure mounts on Haryana govt, police; victim, her father vow to continue fight
Chandigarh stalking case: Politicians react
Upping the ante against the BJP in the Parliament, opposition parties have demanded party sack its state chief following the incident. Randeep Surjewala, Congress spokesperson, alleged that the BJP is attempting to hush up the issue. He also alleged that Chandigarh administration and Chandigarh Police were directly controlled by the Home Ministry. In a statement to the media, Surjewala said: “The accused followed the victim for seven kilometers and tried to block her way. They even tried to break into her car. Does this not fall under the case of kidnapping and abduction? Does this not prove that the difference in the statement of the Chandigarh Police shows the dictates of BJP?” Also Read: Centre trying to hush up issue to shield state BJP chief, son: Congress
BJP MP from Chandigarh Kirron Kher had raised the issue in the Lok Sabha of women being stalked and urged the government to treat such cases as “violence against women”. Kher asked: “Can you not penalise this stalker before he becomes a murderer? Do we only notice when the offence becomes fatal?… Female students stalked outside colleges, working women stalked after work. We need to see stalking as a precedent to assault. It needs to be regarded as violence against women.” She further added: “As a mother, I can understand the sentiments of the victim’s family at this time. Whatever is legal and correct in this case, will be done.” Also Read: Stalking is violence against women, says BJP’s Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher
BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy also said on Monday that he’d file a PIL in the High Court for thorough investigation into the incident.
CPI leader D Raja also questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar on the issue saying: “The PM is accepting rakhis from sisters, but has not uttered a word for the daughter from Chandigarh.”
CM Manohar Lal Khattar says justice will prevail
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday had he has full faith in Chandigarh police and that the guilty will be punished. In a statement to news agency ANI, Khattar had said: “Justice will prevail. Guilty will be punished.”
BJP says Subhash Barala won’t resign
As the investigations are ongoing, the BJP has said that Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala will not resign from his post following allegations of his son Vikas’s involvement in a stalking and attempt to kidnap case. BJP’s national general secretary and Haryana in-charge ANi Jain told Indian Express: “Subhash Barala hasn’t resigned and he will not resign. Let law take its own course.” Also Read: Subhash Barala won’t resign, says Haryana BJP minister
BJP’s Shaina NC shares fake image of victim, deletes tweet claiming account was hacked
As the case snowballs into a major controversy, Maharashtra BJP spokesperson Shaina NC was caught on the wrong foot after she had shared an old, unrelated picture of the victim on social media, which subsequently turned out to be an erroneous post. Later, Shaina claimed that her Twitter account was hacked by “mischievous folks” and urged her followers to “ignore any activity” that happened on her account during that time. The post was taken down after the gaffe was pointed out. Also Read: BJP’s Shaina NC shares fake image of victim, deletes tweet claiming account was hacked
National Commission for Women (NCW) demands fair probe
The NCW has sought a free and fair probe in the case and has also asked for regular updates, NCW Chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam told PTI. In a statement to PTI, Kumaramangalam said: “In the letter (to police) we have asked them to conduct a quick, immediate, fair and free investigation in the case and let us know what is happening in every stage,” she said. NCW’s remarks came amid allegations by the Congress that the Centre and the state BJP were conspiring to hush up the case.
What the Chandigarh police has said in the past two days
Facing severe criticism over handling the investigation in the Chandigarh stalking case, DGP Tejinder Singh Luthra told The Indian Express that they have obtained CCTV footage which shows the “victim was being chased by the accused”. In the statement, Luthra said they have procured footage that establishes the victim being chased by accused in a Tata Safari, adding that he can’t divulge the source of the footage. Luthra’s disclosure came after the administration admitted that the CCTV cameras it installed on the stretch where the alleged stalking took place could not be retrieved because the cameras were dysfunctional since August 1. Also Read: Have CCTV footage of accused chasing victim, say police
Vikas and his friend Ashish allegedly followed a woman, the daughter of a senior IAS officer, on the midnight of August 4, and repeatedly attempted to stop her car. The woman called the Chandigarh Police and a PCR van later apprehended the two accused. According to the medical examination report, both the accused were under the influence of alcohol. A case was registered by the Chandigarh Police against Vikas and Ashish under Section 354 D (stalking) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 185 (Motor Vehicle Act) of the CRPC on the basis of complaint filed by the woman. They were released on bail the same day.