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Time we realised there is nothing romantic about stalking

The police are often reluctant to take action in stalking cases because the victim cannot claim physical harm until often it is too late

editorials Updated: Aug 28, 2017 07:22 IST
Hindustan Times
A protest in Chandigarh in the Varnika Kundu stalking case, August 9. (Keshav Singh/HT)

There is every indication that had the authorities concerned acted in time, the life of the young doctor killed by his stalker who was a colleague in Delhi could have been saved. But the fact that despite complaints, the matter did not receive the seriousness it deserved reveals the general attitude to stalking – in this case perhaps also because the stalker and victim were both male. Last week, in UP a young girl’s hand was cut off by a stalker. And, of course, we recently had the sensational Chandigarh case where fortunately, the stalker was brought to book thanks to the victim’s unrelenting pursuit of justice.

The police are often reluctant to take action in stalking cases because the victim cannot claim physical harm until often it is too late. The ambiguity in the law helps offenders get away with the crime. The first offence of stalking is bailable which means the offender need not actually be produced in court. It is a subsequent offence which becomes non-bailable but then again that is up to the discretion of the court. After the gang rape in Delhi in 2012, the Justice Verma committee had recommended that stalking be made a non-bailable offence but it was opposed by the then home minister and several members of the opposition on the rather specious plea that this would be misused against men. Many of our law makers seem to confuse stalking with some form of romantic overture – in many Hindi films the hero’s persistence in forcing his unwelcome attentions on women is often finally rewarded by her giving in. The message that should go out unequivocally is that stalking is a crime and that there is nothing remotely romantic about it. In many cases, the victim is condemned as having invited unwelcome attention by being out too late or dressing in a particular way. If stalking had been taken as a serious offence and a grave danger to women, there would not have been the patriarchal attitude that boys are given to such antics and that it is all in good fun.

National Crime Records Bureau data shows that at least 18% of all stalking cases take place in Delhi. The woman’s lack of resistance is seen as encouragement by the stalker to increase his attentions until it becomes physical threats or assault. In the doctor’s case, though he had actually been assaulted by the stalker the institution where he worked seemed to have been remarkably lax in allowing the offender back on the premises after first suspending him. A similar apathy on the part of the police has meant that thousands of women live in fear of stalkers across the country every day.

First Published: Aug 27, 2017 15:35 IST