Chandigarh’s Geri Route a stalker’s paradise? ‘Girls come here to get teased’
What happens if a girl does not smile back or is rude? “We do not leave her then and make things even more difficult for her. We can let go a girl who smiles, but not one who shows us attitude.”punjab Updated: Aug 11, 2017 14:35 IST
Last Friday night, a 29-year-old woman driving back home from Chandigarh to Panchkula was chased in an SUV by two men, who tried to repeatedly block her way and bully her into stopping her car. The youth at the wheel turned out to be the son of Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala.
Varnika Kundu, a disc jockey and daughter of a senior IAS iofficer, managed to keep her wits and call up the cops, who finally intercepted the SUV and arrest both Vikas Barala, 23, and his friend Ashish Kumar, 27.
The stalking and attempted abduction has put the spotlight on the geri route of Chandigarh, the stretch between Sectors 10 and 11, where most of the women colleges are located. Young men drive round and round on this stretch with blaring music to stake out girls, who have to face lewd comments and loud honks. Considered a part of Chandigarh’s culture, the route gives men a licence to stalk.
Tanbir Dhaliwal reports from the ground.
A popular notion: ‘geri’ is a ritual. The truth: ‘geri’ is stalking and harassment. The word, however, literally means ‘rounds’. But, it also defines a sub-culture that has existed in City Beautiful for over a decade and conveniently remains out of the ambit of Section 354D which otherwise makes stalking a punishable offence with up to three years in jail.
However, it does not deter youngsters from committing the offence, roaming in their fancy cars and motorcycles. Even Google agrees as the road covering Sectors 8, 9, 10 and 11 has been christened Geri route by the search engine giant. What’s more, it has its own Wikipedia page. A resident of Jind in Haryana, Pardeep Sharma, says, “What purpose do girls have on the Geri route? Obviously, they come here to get stalked and want boys’ attention.” Pardeep came to Chandigarh in 2011 for his higher studies and is a regular visitor here for the past six years.
So, how do things work on the Geri route? He adds, “Boys follow girls and if they smile back, they exchange numbers and become friends.” What happens if a girl does not smile back or is rude? He says, “We do not leave her then and make things even more difficult for her. We can let go a girl who smiles, but not one who shows us attitude.”
His friend, Sandeep Dhillon, agrees, “We block her way and do not let her escape from any side. We follow her and till we decide that she has learnt her lesson. We don’t let her leave Geri route, but if she manages then we don’t follow her.” He asks, “This is a route for lovers, so why should the girl should show us attitude?
The route covers a posh area of the city, home to three colleges — Government Home Science College, DAV College and Government College of Art. The inner markets of these sectors are home to numerous eateries and bars, making it an attractive gathering point for those out and about.
However, the Chandigarh stalking incident also happened on this route. Varnika Kundu, a 29-year-old DJ, was allegedly stalked and chased by Vikas Barala, son of Haryana BJP president Subhash Barala, and his friend Ashish Kumar.
But a quick tour of the area and a few interactions later, it was clear that the Varnika Kundu case has had no effect here. It’s the same old story in which the men shamelessly tail women. Over 50 cars, jeeps and some two-wheelers could be spotted zipping around on the inner road opposite the Government College of Art in Sector 10.
And it’s no surprise that they slow down, play loud Punjabi music and roll down their windows when they spot a girl passing by. They follow her, honk, leer at her and pass lewd comments, fearlessly asking for her phone number. The women, on the other hand, are expected not to be rude as “consequences” will follow otherwise.
A Morinda resident, Sajeet Pal, has regularly visited Geri route for years. He passed out of Khalsa College in 2009, but he does not break his ritual of visiting the Geri route every second day.
“Things have changed a lot and have taken an ugly turn. Earlier, the Geri route was a place to socialise and few men or women came here. But now, the number of vehicles have increased manifold,” he says. He adds that girls were never troubled earlier, but now men block their way from all directions and don’t let them go.
Another visitor, Soni Bhangu, says, “This is no place to socialise anymore, but this route has become a place for youngsters to flaunt their cars and money. It is sheer nuisance now.” But both of them believe that, “Girls come here to get teased and boys tease them.”
What women have to say
“Visiting the Geri route is a part of my routine for the past two years. It’s a nice place to chill and a stress buster. There is something wrong with men who believe that women come here to get stalked. We come here for an outing, just like they come here for fun. I am a biker and this route suits me for practice. Does that mean I come here to get stalked?” said Ranjeeta Kapoor, college student.
Anayat Chopra, college student, added, “There is no impact of the Varnika Kundu case at all. You can visit our college and see the number of boys roaming in their cars. They stalk us and if we ignore them, they abuse us and flash derogatory signs. Once a boy threw a water bottle on my friend who refused to share her contact number.”
“Police stationed outside colleges are of no use. When we go to them with some complaint, they blame us. So, we choose to ignore the entire nuisance,” Shinu Gautam, college student, said.