August 11th, 2017
When Varnika Kundu was chased by Vikash Barla and Ashish Kumar on the streets of Chandigarh, the nightmare she must have gone through can never be imagined by the male fraternity of our country. But ask about the incident to any female living in a city, they would say that they have faced similar situations of harassment at least once in their lives.
Varnika narrated the night when she was stalked on her facebook profile and her father stood in her support. In many cases, victims are unable to gather support even from their family members. Alertness of the Chandigarh police and quick thinking of Varnika saved her. This might would have turned into abduction because as per law it is not a case of stalking but of attempted abduction. Since one of the accused is the son of BJP President of Haryana, political pressure on police was inevitable. The morning when they were arrested, many political leaders of the Haryana unit started visiting the police station. The charges of abduction were dropped and the accused were released on bail the same day. After going to and fro on whether they have evidence or not, the police has finally said they have cctv footage of Vikash Barla and Ashish Kumar chasing Varnika.
Victim blaming and character assassination
What followed after Varnika came out in the open about the incident and gave interviews to various news channels, shows that the filth is not just on the road but on social media as well. The Khap Panchayat which sits in Haryana’s villages is now sitting all over social media.
Varnika’s allegations against the son of a BJP leader started a chain of events discrediting her story; starting with her character assassination.
BJP state vice president Ramveer Bhatti began victim blaming with his profound thoughts stating, “The girl should not have gone out at 12 in the night. Why was she driving so late in the night? The atmosphere is not right. We need to take care of ourselves”. What Bhatti needs is a gender sensitisation workshop which teaches him that we need to make our public spaces more accessible to women than asking them to do and what not to do.
Kuldeep Barala, a member of the Barala family, who himself is accused of kidnapping a minor girl, posted a photo of Varnika. He falsely claimed that on the day of the incident, she was drunk. He later deleted his post. But what his tiny brain fails to grasp is that being drunk doesn’t allow anyone to chase another person on the road (or subject them to any kind of harassment for that matter). People like Kuldeep reaffirm society’s idea that a woman is available and her consent is not needed if she wears certain kind of dresses, smokes or roams late at night. Such people take it upon themselves to shame women who digress from the society’s patriarchal norms.
This was followed by Supreme Court lawyer Prashant P Umrao sharing a photo of Varnika, alleging that she was with the accused, Vikash Barla. When enquired by Newslaundry, Umrao said he doesn’t know whether his claims are true or not, but sounded proud of sharing a fake post. Despite being a lawyer, his years of education has not taught him that a public platform needs to be used with responsibility. What he doesn’t realise is that being irresponsible on social media is not a virtue and even if an individual drinks and parties, nothing gives another person the permission to chase him/her in an attempt of abduction.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Shaina NC too jumped in and shared the same photograph on her Twitter handle and called Varnika a “so called victim beti”. Later she deleted the tweet and said that her account was hacked.
The filth and victim shaming started by influential social media users and BJP leaders have now emboldened those who suffer from persecution complex, forcing them to believe that everything is a conspiracy of the Congress or the left intelligentsia.
Discrediting Varnika’s story and maligning her character on social media points to the fact that even in the technologically advanced 21st century, we believe that a woman is the ‘paanv ki jutti’ of a man and nothing more.
The Maligning campaign continues
There is a group on Facebook that goes by the name ‘Rearming Hinduism’. It consists of more than two lakh people who think Hinduism is in danger and needs to be saved. The group, full of misogynistic and sexist posts, is administered by one Kuntal Chakraborty.
Recently, he made the following post on the group:
Which was followed by comments such as these:
A few people tried to put logic into the minds of those assassinating Varnika’s character. But their attempts were akin to pouring water into a baseless pot.
What is even more distressing is that Kuntal Chakraborty’s post is only one such example of the malignation campaign against Varnika.
She is lying because she is not that beautiful, she drinks or smokes
For a normal person, it would be easy to understand that even if a person is drugged, inebriated, is unfitting the societal standards of beauty or is a transgender, you cannot stalk or attempt to abduct her or him. But for someone who has been raised in a highly patriarchal society where societal norms, religion and politics confirms to such misogynistic thoughts and emboldens them, it will take a revolution to change their mindset.
A case where circumstantial evidence was found by the police and a video footage of Vikash Barla buying alcohol (buying alcohol is not wrong, what followed is) just before the incident exists, people are still denying the facts and building their own alternate realities to discredit Varnika’s story.
This case is the perfect example of what happens when a woman, even if she might be privileged, tries to raise her voice against any harassment faced by her. Her character is questioned, her choices are judged and every single thread of her life is torn apart to see if there is anything which can break her. This incident and its aftermath is a reminder to the women of this country that their character will be prosecuted before their complaints.
We hope the law, the police and everybody else set an example by taking this case to its logical end.