A young woman, driving home late at night in Chandigarh, showed remarkable courage and presence of mind after being given chase by two men, both allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol, in an SUV.
According to reports, the woman accused Vikas Barala, son of Haryana BJP Chief Subhash Barala, and his friend Ashish Kumar, of tailing her since 12.15 AM on early Saturday morning. The duo drove recklessly behind her, cutting her at lights before she could take a turn to escape, and often threatened to ram into her vehicle. Even as she was afraid for her life, the woman managed to inform her parents of her ordeal and also called 100 for help.
Chandigarh police was prompt in its reaction and the men were arrested at a point when they were trying to wrench open the woman's car door after cornering her finally. Booked under Section 354D (stalking) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act (driving by a drunken person or by a person under the influence of drugs), the men were released on bail later, though an investigation is already under way.
Once she was safely home, the woman recounted her horrific night out on Facebook. "My hands shaking, my back spasming from fear, half in tears, half bewildered, because I didn't know if I'd make it home tonight. Who knew when, or if, the cops would show up," she wrote.
She also acknowledged the fact that being the daughter of a bureaucrat meant she could hope to have her complaint heard seriously at the highest levels, but not everyone was as fortunate. "I'm lucky, it seems, to not be the daughter of a common man, because what chance would they have against such VIPs?" she said. "I'm also lucky, because I'm not lying raped and murdered in a ditch somewhere."
Her father, too, expressed his anguish on social media, vowing to take the shocking incident to its "logical conclusion."
"As would be expected, the goons are from influential families. We all know most such cases of harassment go unpunished and even unreported. Most people would not want or dare to take on goons from influential families," he wrote. "I feel if people with some privileges like us cannot stand up to such criminals, nobody in India can. More importantly, I will be failing in my duty as a father to my daughter if I did not stand with her completely in this matter."
The woman, though shaken, has urged others to not to take such incidents lying down and use every means available to them to fob off danger, even if that involves resorting to violence. Her advice is worth quoting in full.
LADIES! Please be proactive about your own safety;
NOTE THE NUMBER OF ANY VEHICLE THAT TRIES TO HARASS YOU.
DON'T BE AFRAID to call the cops, The minute it starts!
Call your parents, if possible, and let them know where you are and the situation you're in.
Try and run away, in the safest way possible.
YOUR LIFE IS PARAMOUNT! If he walks towards you, use whatever you can as a weapon.
I was never a big fan of weapons, till last night.
Whether it's a gun or mace or taser or a golf club or a knife, it's going to make you feel safer and more confident.
STAY SAFE, LADIES!
India has a hoary tradition of men stalking women, in real life or in the cyber space, either with intention to cause harm or under the guise of romantic overture. The bulk of the blame for the latter must lie with the film industries, both in Mumbai and in the southern states, where on-screen love affairs often blossom through acts that would be deemed harassment by any civilised society.
Stalking of women has recently resulted in several tragedies, including the stabbing of a woman in Delhi by a jilted man with scissors and the brutal hacking of a techie in Chennai to death.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data for 2015, 1,124 people from the Union Territory of Delhi complained of stalking under IPC 354D. This accounts for 18% of all stalking cases in the country. And Delhi alone contributes to 97% of all such complaints from all the Union Territories.
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