On Friday night, a woman named Varnika Kundu was stalked through the streets of Chandigarh by the son of Haryana BJP chief, Vikas Barala, and his friend Ashish Kumar. The two men followed her in a car, repeatedly tried to cut her off and force her to open the door of her car. She called the police as she was being chased by the two men, and they were arrested on charges of drunk driving and stalking.
She took to Facebook in a widely shared post to talk about her ordeal, and detailed the manner in which she was followed, the attempts made by the men to to stop the car, open the car door and force their way in, and the horror she experienced throughout the incident. Her father, an IAS officer, also took to social media to talk about the ordeal, and mentioned that the “possibility of harassment and witch-hunting, threats and even physical harm is undeniable, even though unlikely.”
Except it’s actually not unlikely at all. It’s being reported that since the incident came to light, at around 2 AM on Saturday, several BJP leaders made their way to the police station, and started sending requests to police officers to basically handle the case in their favour. The Hindustan Times reports that this prompted several senior police officers to switch their phones off and refuse to take calls.
The Hindustan Times postulates that the fact that Kundu is the daughter of an IAS officer is the reason why the political pressure on police officers failed. The survivor seems to agree: in her social media post on the incident, she says, “I’m lucky, it seems, to not be the daughter of a common man, because what chance would they have against such VIPs?”
The story of how this case is playing out does seem to show that you’d need some kind of administrative or political clout to get around the kind of pressure BJP leaders are exerting to quash this case, and perhaps even that might not be enough. Despite the survivor’s social media account of how the men tried to force their way into the car, the police have not registered a case of kidnap or attempt to kidnap against the men. They were instead arrested for stalking and drunken driving, which are bailable offences, unlike attempt to kidnap, which is non-bailable. Unsurprisingly, both men were bailed out later on Saturday. BJP leaders were present in the station until the accused got bail. The police have said there was no political pressure in the case, which sounds like a big, fat, brazen lie, as does their recent assertion that all five cameras operating on that stretch are mysteriously not functional.
•girl gets stalked
•boy from top bjp family
•victim-shame the girl
•cctv footage goes missing
beta bachao, beti lmao
— amrtsh (@floydimus) August 7, 2017
Of course, BJP leaders and supporters have already turned to shaming the Kundu and attempting to blame her for the incident. Haryana BJP Deputy President Ramveer Bhatti told CNN-News18, “Why was she driving so late in the night? The atmosphere is not right. We need to take care of ourselves.” A Supreme Court advocate named Prashant Umrao also published a picture of the survivor with two men, calling her a “so-called victim”, alleging that the men in the photo were the men who have been accused in this case, and trying to suggest that they were all friends and implying that she was basically “asking for it”. Kundu has clarified that the men in the photo are not the men accused in the case.
Not that it would matter or make a difference if they were, really. As a spate of cases of intimate partner violence and statistics that say that 90 percent of sexual assault crimes are perpetrated by people known to the victim indicate, you can easily be photographed with a person who sexually assaulted you. Of course, in this instance, the men in the photograph being shared with the intention of shaming the survivor aren’t even the actual perpetrators, and it’s just another unimaginative attempt at smearing the character of a woman who dared to speak up against the crimes of powerful men.
In her social media post, Kundu also said she was “lucky because [she’s] not lying raped and murdered in a ditch somewhere”. Isn’t it so sad and so crazy that we live in a world where women feel lucky that their parents are important enough to file police complaints with the expectation that they’ll be handled properly, and also that they haven’t been raped, murdered and thrown into a ditch on a Friday night?