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Political impunity for stalkers The shocking
Chandigarh incident is being politicized first of all by those using political influence to save the neck of the accused
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It is high time that prime minister Narendra Modi and his Bhartiya Janta Party which beats the trumpet of being gender sensitive and conscious to the issue of girl child and safety of women also walk the talk. The party cannot be let off the hook for the shocking manner in which Haryana's top BJP leader's son Vikas Barala stalked a young woman in Chandigarh late in the night following her for six kilometers and then attempting to kidnap her. Surely, as is being suggested by some party leaders that his father Subash Barala cannot be held responsible for the incident. However, the senior Barala should have been taken to task for using influence to bail out his son and his accomplice, fudge evidence and demonise the brave survivor of the incident. Initially, the two accused men were arrested and charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 354 D (stalking) and Section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act (driving by a drunken person or by a person under the influence of drugs) as well as the more serious Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 365 (kidnapping) and 511 (attempt to commit offences punishable with imprisonment). However, the charges were later reduced and the two men were released on bail. After facing a backlash for their U-turn, the police said that they were seeking legal opinion regarding the dropped charges. Even more horrifying, the CCTV footage at all the crossings on that 6 kilometre stretch of road that the survivor Varnika Kundu was stalked and harassed has mysteriously gone missing. Needless to point out that Chandigarh is one of the most planned cities of the country where basic systems are well in place. That the politically influential family is leaving no stone unturned in trying to cover up is also evident from the manner in which some of the BJP leaders have begun demonizing the girl, questioning why she was out so late or by circulating some photographs on the social media to cast aspersions on her character. It should be nobody's business to know what the survivor was wearing or how late she was out or what her entire life history is about. The law about sexual violence is clear. Stalking is a non-bailable offence and does not get a bit diluted by casting aspersions on the character of the victims involved. It is even more shocking that the survivor's father feels that bringing justice in this case is an uphill task, despite being a serving IAS officer. Pitted against a political heavy-weight, he is aware of the tough battle ahead as is reflected from his remark, "I feel if people with some privileges like us cannot stand up to such criminals, nobody in India can."

The case follows the usual pattern where the accused men are politically and financially influential. Some BJP leaders have condemned the shocking incident. The party that is ruling both at the Centre and in Haryana cannot simply get away with a sheepish condemnation of the incident. It must ensure that speedy justice is dispensed with in this case without further harassment of the girl and her family. Barring exceptions within BJP, like Kirron Kher, who were quick in snubbing BJP leaders for trying to tarnish the image of the girl, there has been studied silence from the others. Indeed such cases of sexual harassment need not be politicised. But when political influence and pressure is used by the accused to wriggle out of the situation, the onus of politicization does not lie on those seeking justice but those trying to stonewall justice. If the Haryana unit of BJP cannot desist the temptation of backing the accused, directly or indirectly, nor ensure speedy justice in this case, the prime minister himself should step in. Or does Modi, who once used all his influence to suppress the accusations of stalking a woman during his tenure as Gujarat chief minister, not believe that the Chandigarh stalking case is a heinous crime and a complete anti-thesis of slogans like 'Beti bachao, Beti Padhao'.

News Updated at : Wednesday, August 9, 2017
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