Be­lated Happy Rak­sha Band­han

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page - Ra­jyas­ree Sen

We’ve known for a while now that this is no coun­try for women. Es­pe­cially in North In­dia. First, you’re lucky if your par­ents ac­tu­ally al­low you to live once they dis­cover that you are a girl. And if you sur­vive fe­male in­fan­ti­cide, there are other hor­rors to fol­low.

Last week, women’s plaits were be­ing mys­te­ri­ously lopped off by ‘ghosts’ and ‘shape-shift­ing cats’ in Haryana, Ut­tar Pradesh, Delhi and Ra­jasthan. Plait-cut­ters aside, on Satur­day morn­ing, a video sur­faced of a crowd in the drive­way of what turned out to be a gated con­do­minium in Gu­ru­gram, Es­sel Tow­ers. A man was shout­ing in English, “You are sup­port­ing pros­ti­tu­tion in the so­ci­ety!” Be­cause why else would a sin­gle woman want a male vis­i­tor to come to her home? Aap hi bataiyen!

On Fri­day night, around the same time that un­mar­ried women ten­ants were be­ing ac­cused of be­ing pros­ti­tutes, Varnika Kundu was driv­ing home at mid­night in Chandigarh. Her car was chased for over 7km by Vikas Bar­ala and his friend, Ashish Ku­mar. Both were drunk. They tried to block the car’s path with their SUV. Kundu man­aged to drive away and filed an FIR.

But then it gets in­ter­est­ing. Bar­ala is the son of Sub­hash Bar­ala, the Haryana BJP pres­i­dent. Both Vikas and Ashish are law stu­dents, which is, if you’re the sort you gets ironies, is quite ironic.

What fol­lowed in the Kundu case ex­plains why the lot of ur­ban women is not go­ing to change in this coun­try in a hurry. The po­lice dropped the charge of ab­duc­tion. The charges were re­duced to ‘stalking’ and ‘wrong­ful re­straint’ — two crimes that are bail­able. Yes, Bar­ala and his friend were re­leased on bail and an ‘in­ves­ti­ga­tion’ is now on. I would re­quest you to not hold your breath.

It’s bad enough that the law seems to think that stalk­ers and men who chase women in cars to ac­cost them on empty streets should be let off with a rap on their knuck­les. What’s worse is the Bar­ala fam­ily — and some mem­bers of the BJP — de­fend­ing Bar­ala’s be­hav­iour. Be­cause what else could Kundu be but a woman of ‘loose morals’ — an un­mar­ried woman who was out on her own at night. That was so ob­vi­ous. On Mon­day, Chandigarh BJP vice pres­i­dent Ramveer Bhatti stated, “Such cases tend to oc­cur… and the prob­a­bil­ity is higher for girls be­ing stalked if they are out at odd hours.” And par­ents must en­sure “girls should not be seen roam­ing on roads af­ter a cer­tain hour in the evening”. Yes, lock­ing up men out to ha­rass and worse is such an im­prac­ti­cal thing to do. ‘At odd hours’.

Sub­hash Bar­ala’s nephew, Kuldeep Bar­ala, posted an im­age on so­cial me­dia of Kundu stand­ing be­tween two male friends from 2012. Why? Be­cause any woman with male friends is a woman who de­serves un­wanted sex­ual at­ten­tion from men. Kuldeep’s lack of un­der­stand­ing of women’s safety or free will is not per­plex­ing. Af­ter all, he him­self has ab­duc­tion charges against him in an on­go­ing case. Bar­alas of a feather flock to­gether.

Sub­hash Bar­ala, af­ter main­tain­ing a stud­ied si­lence, said on Tues­day that Kundu is “like my daugh­ter”. God help us from peo­ple ‘like our fa­thers’ then. The next evening, BJP spokesper­son Shaina NC, who hap­pens to be a woman, posted the same pic­ture of Kundu with her two friends on Twit­ter and Face­book. Af­ter a back­lash on Twit­ter, Shaina claimed her Twit­ter ac­count had been hacked.

The hacker, it seems, had kindly deleted the ‘mis­chievous’ tweet be­fore hand­ing the ac­count back to her. Shaina seemed to have for­got­ten that the same pic­ture had been posted on her Face­book ac­count as well. Per­haps, the hacker is the same per­son chop­ping off peo­ple’s braids. Be­lated Happy Rak­sha Band­han!

No big brother this

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