By Vipin Pubby
The belated action by the Chandigarh Police in arresting Haryana BJP chief’s son, Vikas Barala, and his friend on charges of attempting to abduct a girl after chasing her for nearly 10 kilometres at around midnight is evidently a result of immense pressure exerted by the media and opposition. Vikas was left off without forcing him to undergo a medical test for alcohol and by diluting the charges against him.
Unfortunately such incidents are not unusual but the case hit the headlines because of the involvement of high profile persons. The victim, daughter if a senior IAS officer, was chased by Vikas, son of Haryana BJP president Subhash Barala. The victim was not aware of the identity of the perpetrator at the time of the incident but made it clear that she won’t let him go unpunished. It was a bold and appreciate step taken by her which was totally supported by her father VS Kundu.
The incident has focussed attention on two aspects : Did the BJP leaders, including the accused’s father, exert pressure or use influence to strike a compromise or get the case diluted and whether Barala is responsible for the act of his son Vikas.
As per news reports, Subhash Barala and several BJP leaders indeed attempted to strike a compromise. These reports said 40 to 50 BJP leaders and workers had reached the police station as news spread about Vikas being nabbed for stalking Varnika Kundu, who did not wish to hide her identity. Among those who sought to put pressure on Kundu and his daughter was Krishan Dhull, a spokesman of the party who is considered close to the state BJP chief.
Allegedly he not only pleaded with Kundu to let go and forced Vikas to seek apology and call Varnika his sister, he also requested Kundu to receive a call from the senior Barala. The officer, however, refused to take calls. In an interview he said he did not pick up calls and found through truecaller app that the caller was the father of the accused.
This is as far as we know about the attempts by the BJP leaders to exert pressure on the victim and her father. We have no information about their attempt to put pressure on the officers in Chandigarh Administration, including police officers. However, given the high stakes involved and the ultimate action of the police in dropping more serious charges of kidnapping, such attempts cannot be ruled out. While the junior personnel of the Chandigarh Police deserve commendation for nabbing the accused, some of the senior officers have not come out with flying colours. Their initial decision to not book the accused for kidnapping despite the assertion by Varnika that an attempt was made to kidnap her, leaves the role of senior officers in doubt.
Several BJP leaders compounded the crime by coming to the defence of Subhash Barala as the demand for his resignation gained ground. Even Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar ruled out his resignation. Another BJP leader, Ranveer Bhatti, stoked controversy by saying girls should not move out late at night. The usual suspects also started a campaign on social media to defame Varnika by posting her pictures with boys or holding a drink.
This brings us to the second question. Whether the father should be punished for the acts of his son ? If he had not sought to influence Kundus, he deserved credit and no one would have the moral right to seek his resignation. However, he did try to do that. Secondly, he must share responsibility for such acts of his son. It reflects the son’s upbringing. It is evident that his son found stalking and chasing girls at midnight a perfectly normal behaviour. The failure of his parents to instil values and respect towards women is evident.
Now comes the question of duplicity of the party leaders who had been demanding resignation of political rivals for similar or crimes. An immediate instance that comes to mind is that of Congress leader Venod Sharma whose son Manu Sharma was involved in the killing of Jessica Lal. Venod Sharma had to step down and faced incessant criticism for attempts to influence the case. Another recent incident is the resignation of Pawan Bansal as the Union Railway Minister after one of his relatives was accused of corruption. The BJP and other parties had then forcefully demanded his resignation.
Varnika Kundu and her father deserve credit for their courageous stand and deciding to fight it out. It is a known fact that such incidents are considered quite ‘normal’ and almost all go unreported. One of the reasons to let go is that the victims and their families don’t want to attract attention or take cudgels with goons and their families. The media also does not highlight such cases as it has done the latest one mainly because it has turned out to be a high profile case. The fact is that the accused could have got away more easily if there was an ‘ordinary’ victim.
The refusal of Subhash Barala to tender his resignation and the silence of central BJP leadership is leading to the impression that the party is no different from Congress when it comes to attempts at defending its tainted leaders. Both the mainstream media and social media have taken up the issue. BJP may have to pay a price for defending Barala. Particularly jarring is the coinage of new slogan : Instead of beti padhao, beti bachao, opposition leaders are taunting BJP by saying that the new slogan seemed ‘Beti rulao, beta bachao’. BJP was expected to initiate prompt action but its silence is deafening.