Chandigarh stalking case shows one person’s fight against the system can pay off | opinion$Comment | Hindustan Times
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Chandigarh stalking case shows one person’s fight against the system can pay off

Varnika Kundu’s fearless response to her ordeal shows that, however heavily weighted the system may be in favour of the powerful, an individual can, on occasion, successfully fight it. But for that to happen, certain circumstances need to come together in her favour.

opinion Updated: Aug 13, 2017 21:02 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya
Varnika with her father Varinder Singh Kundu, Panchkula, August 7, 2017
Varnika with her father Varinder Singh Kundu, Panchkula, August 7, 2017(Sant Arora Hindustan Times)

The times we live in have made us cynical. The powerful will always get away, we believe. The influential and wealthy will never be brought to account. The system will work to the advantage of those with clout rather than those without.. The system is powerless, servile, ineffectual.

In such times, the case of Chandigarh disc jockey Varnika Kundu offers a glimmer of hope. On her way home from work late at night, Kundu was allegedly stalked by a couple of drunk young men who, she says, followed her in their car and then banged on the door of her car so that they could get in or drag her out.

One of the men happened to be Vikas Barala, the son of Haryana BJP chief, Subhash Barala. What followed Kundu’s complaint was of a piece with what the times we live in have led us to expect. Vikas and his friend refused to give blood and urine samples to the police. They were booked under bailable charges, and allowed to walk away.

What occurred next was what the cynic in us did not expect. Kundu stood up for herself. Her Facebook post on the incident went viral. Her father, a senior bureaucrat, put out a strongly worded statement. The media picked up the story; it acquired legs; and it ran and ran.

The BJP was forced to swiftly dissociate itself from Vikas. His father said justice would take its course. CCTV footage, initially said to be missing because apparently none of the five cameras on the stretch were working, turned up. The police summoned Vikas and his friend, interrogated them, and arrested them under the far more serious section of attempt to abduction.

Kundu’s fearless response to her ordeal shows that, however heavily weighted the system may be in favour of the powerful, an individual can, on occasion, successfully fight it. But for that to happen, certain circumstances need to come together in her favour. In this case, they did: the nature of Kundu’s tribulation; the manner of her riposte; the amplification afforded by social media; her bureaucrat father’s unstinting support and readiness to talk about the incident at length; and the media’s willingness to accord wall-to-wall coverage turned the issue into a cause célèbre.

Under intense scrutiny, with political patronage withdrawn, the protective halo of power and entitlement faded, and Vikas and his friend were diminished to what, according to the charges, they essentially were that night: Drunken louts behaving in a manner that cannot be condoned.

This case has a long way to run. No one knows how it will eventually unfold. But it does show that one person’s fight against the system can pay off. It will be misleading to read too much into this and think of it as a sort of tipping point. But the times we live in have us expect so little that even this much seems like a lot.

This sort of thing happens too seldom. So when it does, it gives the cynics in us hope. It allows us to believe. And that is no mean thing.

Views expressed are personal.