Chandigarh stalking case quickly turning into a political slugfest
Chandigarh/New Delhi: “I have the power of the people behind me,” the young woman who was allegedly stalked by Haryana BJP chief’s son and his friend said on Monday as politicians, bureaucrats and women rallied around her.
Three days after the 29-year-old was chased through the streets of Chandigarh on her way home late on Friday night, the high profile incident involving the daughter of a bureaucrat and the son of a politician led to a political slugfest and put the issue of stalking in the crosshairs of national attention. While Haryana’s opposition Congress accused the Centre and the BJP of “conspiring to hush up” the case against the son of Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said he would file a PIL in the Punjab and Haryana high court for a court-monitored CBI probe.
The Indian Administrative Service (Central) Association demanded “exemplary and timely punishment” and the National Commission for Women (NCW) said it had written to the Haryana director general of police, seeking a free and fair probe.
The Chandigarh police also fought back charges that it was being partial and said it was conducting a “fair investigation” into the case against Vikas Barala (23), and his friend, Ashish Kumar (27). The two were earlier arrested for allegedly stalking the woman and later released on bail as they had been booked under bailable sections of the IPC and the Motor Vehicles Act.
As the controversy swirled, highlighting the vulnerability of women even in public spaces, the woman at the centre of it all said she was grateful for all the support. “… I have the power of people behind me, never before in my life have I felt so much support,” said the DJ by profession. Had she not been the daughter of an IAS officer, things could have ended differently.
“If I had been a village girl, probably I would not have the resources to fight these guys,” said the complainant who appeared on television with her father by her side to present her viewpoint. “If we don’t do it (pursue the case), then who will.”
Her father said that “unless somebody from the family (of the accused) was trying to sabotage the investigations, we are very clear. We do not hold the family responsible in any way”. His response came as the opposition stepped up its demand for Barala’s resignation and criticised the Chandigarh police for not charging his son with attempted kidnapping.
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said the Chandigarh police came directly under the Union home ministry and they were trying to protect Barala and his son. The BJP ruled out Barala’s resignation. “Subhash Barala has nothing to with the Vikas Barala case. The law is taking its own course in this case. There is no reason for the resignation of Subhash Barala,” said BJP’s Haryana in-charge Anil Jain.
Faced with flak from the opposition as well as people like Subramanian Swamy, who accused them of doing a “somersault”, the Chandigarh police said it was not working under any pressure. To a question on why the two accused had not been charged with attempted kidnapping, Chandigarh Police SSP, Eish Singhal said, “We are proceeding in this case with an open mind and if any such Section is to be added, we will definitely add it (in the FIR already registered in the case).”
BJP MP Kirron Kher, who represents Chandigarh in the Lok Sabha, assured the young woman and her family that justice would be done. The Chandigarh police, she said, was not facing any political pressure and dismissed as “wild allegations” some reports that the CCTV footage had gone missing.
“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.” Kher also referred to her party colleague Chandigarh BJP vice-president Ramveer Bhatti’s reported comments that girls and women should not go out alone at midnight.
“I think this is a very unfortunate statement, which reflects the mindset of many men in this country. I think that Bhatti should have exercised restraint,” Kher said. However, Bhatti clarified his remarks later and said, “What I meant to convey is that it is the responsibility of parents to watch over their children and their activities.” He described the stalking incident as “unfortunate and shameful”.