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Year on, Varnika Kundu feels Chandigarh still unsafe for women

The 30-year-old daughter of an Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer made national headlines and emerged as a role model for women after she took on her VIP stalker exactly a year ago.

punjab Updated: Aug 05, 2018 11:19 IST
Aneesha Bedi
Aneesha Bedi
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Varnika Kundu,Chandigarh,Chandigarh stalking case
Varnika Kundu (HT Photo)

In all my adventures, off-roading or martial arts, I have never experienced the kind of intense fear I felt on the roads of India’s safest city that night...”

This is how Varnika Kundu, a city-based disc jockey, remembered the intervening night of August 4 and 5, 2017, during a TEDx Talk in Chandigarh in January this year.

The 30-year-old daughter of an Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer made national headlines and emerged as a role model for women after she took on her VIP stalker exactly a year ago. Overwhelmed with all the media attention and campaigns that followed, Varnika said it has cost her her privacy.

Garnering support from many, she has also been subjected to unwanted scrutiny time and again.

Sipping a frappe at a coffee shop, Varnika says she can’t believe that it’s been a year since her life took a turn.

Just a fortnight back, she almost made news again after an IAS officer’s daughter was challaned for speeding and drunk driving. As it turned out, the girl wasn’t Varnika, but the damage had been done.

Recounting how a helpful PCR ride on New Year’s Eve led to speculations that she was drunk out of habit, Varnika says she is amused with all this.

‘An eye-opener’

From having to seek security during the initial few months to thinking thrice about stepping out to even visit a market, the Rohtak-born says she’s decided to be patient and stay put in Chandigarh until the trial is on, even though she feels it’s no longer a safe city.

Currently residing in Panchkula, ‘Miracle Drugg’ — as music lovers call her — says the entire experience has been an eye-opener for her.

The biggest learning for this otherwise articulate woman has been the judicial process.

“I think every girl should know how to file an FIR if she faces harassment. Children should also be taught the procedure for recording statement in court,” says Varnika.

Content with the way Chandigarh Police carried out the investigation, she says she has no reason to complain even though she is well aware that many similar stalking episodes must have gone unreported.

“I do notice more women coming out now and sharing their experiences and if I’ve set the precedent then why not,” says Varnika, who didn’t see the point in concealing her identity as she felt she didn’t do anything wrong.

‘Blessing in disguise’

Social media has played an important role in all this, and Varnika acknowledges it.

It was her’s Facebook post detailing the alleged stalking incident that was shared widely and put spotlight on the case. Even while calling it a “blessing in disguise”, Varnika says she hasn’t been able to get a good night’s sleep ever since.

The incident also led to another online campaign, which seeks to make stalking a non-bailable offence. Even Congress MP Shashi Tharoor lent his support to the proposed bill.

Questioned about her own political ambitions, she laughs it off. Given the way she is, her family and friends feel dealing with people like a politician is not her forte, she says.

On trial for stalking her is the son of a senior politician.

The defence has maintained that Vikas Barala, son of Bharatiya Janata Party’s Haryana unit president Subhash Barala, is being falsely implicated and Varnika was not present in Chandigarh on the night of the incident.

“Of course I still get nervous about the final outcome of the case,” says Varnika. “The question that what would have happened if I hadn’t escaped from there keeps me awake even today.”

The case so far

Aug 4/5 night, 2017: Vikas Barala, friend Ashish Kumar stalk DJ Varnika Kundu

Aug 6: Accused booked for stalking, arrested, get bail

Aug 10: Kidnapping sections added, accused arrested, sent to police custody

Aug 12: Court sends accused to judicial custody

Aug 29: Their bail declined

Sept 21: Chargesheet filed in court

Oct 13: Charges framed against duo

Nov 13: Vikas Barala’s bail plea denied fourth time

Jan 9, 2018: Varnika’s cross-examination concludes; trial on

First Published: Aug 05, 2018 11:15 IST