Chandigarh stalking case: Litmus test for Modi to prove his commitment towards Beti Bachao andolan
Chandigarh, August 8: Once in a while a case comes to the forefront that shakes the collective conscience of the country. After the brutal rape and murder of Nirbhaya in the national capital in December 2012, the stalking and attempt to kidnap episode involving Chandigarh woman Varnika Kundu has forced the nation to sit, think and discuss on safety of women, once again.
The 29-year-old DJ and daughter of an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, who while driving her car back home on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday was followed for seven-eight kilometers by two men, Vikas Barala and Ashish Kumar. The accused also stopped Varnika's car in an attempt to allegedly abduct her.
Vikas is the son of Haryana Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief, Suresh Barala. It's a high profile case, as the son of a VIP belonging to the ruling party, both in the state and at the Centre, is one of the main accused.
In such a scenario, the saffron party is more under pressure to show its committed towards one of its pet projects--Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save Girl Child, Educate Girl Child)--a campaign started by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The case of Varnika has put to test the intention of the ruling regime towards the safety of women. In a country, where harassment of women in public space is notoriously common, the BJP can't afford to lose voters' trust by siding with the accused, the son of one of its powerful men, till investigations are not over.
Unfortunately, the members of the Haryana BJP are doing exactly what they are not supposed to do. The leaders of the BJP in the northern state, infamous for its skewed sex ratio, seemed to have ganged up to save an accused 'son'.
Together the BJP men are attempting to deny justice to a daughter (Varnika) in order to protect the reputation of the party and its top-most leader and his family member.
As per reports, the BJP leadership clearly obstructed the law to take its own course by influencing the police to give bail to the accused. On top of that, the mysterious disappearance of CCTV footage from seven traffic points along the route where the accused allegedly stalked the woman and a social media campaign allegedly run by BJP supporters to malign the victim, raise several questions regarding how zealously the BJP is pursuing the case to clear the names of the accused.
First, the BJP chief Barala has gone 'underground' along with his son Vikas , who and his friend immediately got bail after the Chandigarh police arrested them for stalking and drunken driving from the crime spot upon receiving a distress call from Varnika.
They easily got bail as the police failed to register the case under the non-bailable offences--like Section 341 (wrongful restraint), 365 (kidnapping with intent to confine) and others.
Second, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar stated that the state BJP chief has got nothing to do with the case (although his son is involved in it) and thus there is no need for senior Barala to resign from the party's top post.
Khattar said, "Barala has nothing to do with this incident. It is an individual incident. The accused will face action if found guilty." Add to CM's clean-chit to his colleague, comes the most outrageous defence for the accused.
Haryana BJP vice president Ramveer Bhatti blamed the victim for the "shocking" incident as she was out on the road late in the night. "Why was she allowed to roam around at night? Parents should not allow their children to stay out late...what is the point of roaming around at night?" questioned Bhatti.
By indulging in victim-shaming, Bhatti clearly exposed the patriarchal mindset of a section of the Indian society where a woman is not allowed to leave her house without a male companion, who again has to be either her father, brother or husband.
Some of Varnika's detractors made it a point to share a picture on social media where she was allegedly seen posing with the two accused. Through the viral photograph, her critics were trying to suggest that the entire case is a fabricated one as Varnika has some sinister design to target the son of a powerful BJP leader.
Later, Varnika told news channels that it was indeed her picture, but the two men posing with her are not the two accused but her two friends.
Varnika's case got a lot of attention after she narrated the whole horrific incident on Facebook. In her Facebook post, the 29-year-old not only minutely explained each and every second of that traumatic journey from Chandigarh to Panchkula, but vowed to fight till the end. Her father Virender Kundu too stood by his daughter's side in their quest for justice.
The fight of the daughter-father duo against a set of powerful people is definitely going to be long and arduous, as the VIPs will make sure to bend every existing rule in their favour.
In this testing time for the Kundu family, a tweet from the PM in support of the brave woman and her father will go a long way in boosting the morale of those who wants to fight for the safety and dignity of Indian betis.