Four days before the alleged stalking of an IAS officer’s daughter by Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala’s son Vikas Barala and his friend in Chandigarh, an MP had raised in the Lok Sabha the issue of women being stalked and urged the government to treat such cases as “violence against women”. The issue was raised during zero hour on August 1 — by BJP MP from Chandigarh Kirron Kher.
Amid chaotic scenes in the House over the political violence in Kerala, 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.” On Monday, with mounting outrage over the incident in her own constituency, with the accused being released on bail within hours of the case being registered on August 5, Kher said in Chandigarh, “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.”
When contacted by The Indian Express to speak on the issue, Kher said she was unable to do so as she was busy.
However, in the Lok Sabha last Tuesday, Kher had struck a forceful note, saying, “We focus on the supposedly bigger problems of crime, while stalkers roam around with impunity, no shame in their creed.” Pointing out that there were 4,700 complaints of stalking in Delhi in 2014, with other states like Telangana, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh witnessing numerous such cases, Kher said, “Trivialising incidents of invasive stalking will actually make them more serious with time. It will be wiser and cognizant of us to realize the gravity of the rise in this crime and become units of assistance to every victim who is prey to this violence… a senior prosecutor of the city police pointed out that stalking cases are complex and often do not end in conviction, resulting in the accused coming out and posing a bigger threat.”
The Chandigarh MP also said the women were “afraid and reluctant” to register complaints about stalking. “What good are laws if the ability to act on them is forever absent?” she asked. In the Chandigarh case, 29-year-old Varnika Kundu, a disc jockey and daughter of V K Kundu, Additional Chief Secretary, Tourism, stated in her police complaint that she was allegedly stalked for nearly 7 km for 30 minutes around midnight on August 4 by Vikas Barala and his friend Ashish Kumar.
Describing her condition on Facebook, Varnika wrote, “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.”
On Monday, Varnika said she would pursue the case to its “logical end”. “I will neither be scared, nor succumb to any pressure. I am committed to take this case to its logical end so that it serves as a deterrent for such unscrupulous persons,” she said.
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