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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Delhi case brings focus back on stalking dangers

New Delhi: In 2013, Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code listed stalking as an offence which is punishable by a term of up to three years. But that was not enough to save the life of Meenakshi, a New Delhi teenager who was stabbed to death by Jai Prakash, a man she had accused of stalking and harassing her.

Her family claimed that she had filed a complaint against the accused in 2013 itself but nothing much came out of it. Delhi Police on its part has denied that such a complaint was filed. According to reports, Jai Prakash and his brother Ajay have been arrested by the police.

The IPC defines stalking as “following a woman... attempts to contact a woman... repeatedly despite a clear indication of dis-interest." In Meenakshi’s case, her family claims that Jai Prakash would often follow her, pass lewd remarks and even throw stones at her. The manner in which she was attacked was equally brazen. She was returning from the market in the evening and was chased through the lanes of Panjabi Basti in Anand Parbat, Delhi.

This is not the first time a woman has been attacked for filing a complaint against a stalker. In February, a 28-year-old woman was stabbed by a stalker in New Delhi’s CR Park. She survived the attack. In 2013, a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University severely injured his friend before killing himself, after she rejected his advances. In 2014, a girl was stabbed to death by a jilted lover in East Delhi. Interestingly, he was out on bail on a case of molestation filed against him by the victim.

“Crimes like the stabbing proves that we are still not giving enough attention to crime against women," says senior advocate Rebecca John. While the horrific gang rape of 2012 led to major changes in the law for crime against women, according to John, there has been a distinct lack of tangible gains, particularly in terms of combating crime against women.

“In a country where senior scientists with international laurels to their name are accused of sexual harassment and yet allowed to get back to work albeit with restrictions, what is the message we are sending across?" asks a women’s rights activist.

While the inclusion of stalking and voyeurism under sections of the IPC was considered a step forward, John wonders what the gains have been. “What has been the conviction rate in these cases? Who is facing trials?" she asks.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, crime against women has been steadily increasing, with Delhi in the lead. According to the police data, 14,687 cases involving abuse of women were registered under different sections of the IPC till December 2014. In 2013, the number was 12,410. In some cases of attacks by stalkers, the victim had filed a complaint but to no avail. “Somewhere, we have lost sight of the fact that people are using the beneficial aspects of law like bail to commit crimes," says John. It is a dilemma since the law gives everyone the benefit of doubt but if it leads to providing opportunities to offenders to commit more crimes, what is the solution?

According to clinical psychologist Rajat Mitra, when dealing with stalkers, women have to find the middle ground between extreme provocation and passivity. “The idea is to not provoke them but not be passive either. Stalkers present a very different kind of behaviour where they construe a woman’s silence as tacit approval. Women have to speak up the first time itself, rather than wait till they reach a certain threshold," says Mitra.

Most stalkers build an alternative universe of fantasy in their minds, which involves an intense relationship with the woman. “Separating from the image they have created becomes next to impossible which results in tragic consequences," he says.

This mental mirage combined with a cavalier attitude towards law and rule-breaking can lead to tragedies like the one witnessed in Delhi. “We are far from being a rule of law society. There is no fear of breaking the law or rules in our consciousness, which needs to be developed since childhood and that is why we see attacks like the one on Meenakshi. There is a complete lack of fear of consequences of actions," says Mitra.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has sought a report from Delhi Police on the crime. He claims this is yet another incident in the denigrating law and order situation in the capital. In the meantime, the girl’s family wants answers as to why no action was taken when she first approached the police. Perhaps, the story would have turned out differently.

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Updated: 19 Jul 2015, 10:25 PM IST
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