Monday, August 7, 2017

Chandigarh stalking case: Ready to fight character assassination, says father // Subhash Barala kept calling, I didn’t take his calls, says father

Determined to fight the case of stalking of her daughter to the end, senior Haryana-cadre IAS officer V S Kundu on Monday said that “supporters of criminals” have started a campaign aimed at “character assassination” of his daughter, but the family will not come under such pressure and is “mentally prepared” to battle it out. “Baseless posts are being posted on social media by taking photographs from my daughters’ Facebook account and the internet. This is pressure tactic,” Kundu told The Indian Express at his residence in Panchkula, bordering Chandigarh in Haryana.

Kundu, Haryana’s Additional Chief Secretary (Tourism), gave the example of an old photograph of his daughter that is being circulated on social media forums in an attempt to project that his daughter, Varnika was with the accused. “In reality, the picture was clicked with a musician from South (India) in 2011 or 2012.” Varnika was stalked, allegedly by Haryana BJP president Subhash Barala’s son Vikas and a friend, late Friday night. IAS (Central) Association, the officers’ association, has called for “exemplary and timely punishment” for offences against women and called the stalking case “absolutely shocking” in one tweet thus far. In private, officers are using various social media groups to seek more action from the representative body to keep pressure on the state police, sources said.

Passing a collective resolution and sending it to top levels of the government have also been reportedly suggested and discussed on WhatsApp groups of officers. The Haryana IAS officers’ association is learnt to have had a meeting on the issue. On Monday, Kundu, 55, said that the culprits and their associates are “making efforts that somehow the blame for the incident is put on my daughters, or my family. That’s why they have started this character assassination campaign.” But, the 1986-batch IAS officer said, “We are mentally prepared…(to fight) such tactics. This is happening in almost all cases — whenever any girl tries to pursue her case, such character assassination takes place. I have already told my daughters about this and asked them to be prepared.”

Stating that the family is not worried, he said, “We have got a message of support and solidarity from across the country. I feel in a case where so many people are ready to support the truth, then the future of the country is safe.” In a tweet linking a Facebook post by Kundu, the IAS Officer’s Association had on Saturday said, “Absolutely shocking. Time we made our nation a safe place for all women. Exemplary & timely punishment for offences a must.” The association claims to represent all 5,000-odd IAS officers in India. So far, IAS (Central) Association has not come out with any resolution, neither has it issued any statement, barring the tweet.

This measured response is in contrast with the aggressive protests the representative body has displayed whenever it has felt that one of its own has been wronged. Like in the case of former Coal Secretary H C Gupta, prosecuted in the coal scam this year, the associated not only rallied in support but also went to town with the message that innocent officers being made scapegoats. Some officers told The Indian Express that the assessment of the incident, and the subsequent action of local police, is also being viewed in the light of the infamous rivalry between IAS and IPS officers by many. “Lower-rank police officers have performed their duty well, but it high-ranking officers appeared to have come under pressure - or that this the impression that has gone out,” an IAS officer said, describing the responses received on one of the IAS officers’ WhatsApp groups.

Social media posts such as how Vikas Barala and his friend were apparently fed “burger and tea” by the police in the police station as per instructions from the top officers, is being circulated widely. Virender Kundu’s Facebook post, in which he appeals for justice and narrates the whole incident, is also being widely circulated in personal chat platforms of IAS officers. Kundu wrote in the post that the he is not demanding that the family of the accused be punished in any way. “We do not hold the families responsible for the crimes of these men,” he wrote. “We want them to be punished for the offences they have actually committed, and awarded punishment commensurate with their culpability. Not over punished, but definitely not under punished either.”

Subhash Barala kept calling, I didn’t take his calls, says father
“When the two men realised that they had landed themselves in serious trouble, and that we were intent on registering a case, they said, ‘behen galti ho gayi (we made a mistake)’,” recalled Kundu. The 1986 Haryana-cadre IAS officer said he and his daughter were determined to pursue the case, and would accept no compromise or apology, although this could change their lives completely.
There can be “no apology for a crime”, he said. “In any case, apology kuch hai hi nahi ab (there is no apology now)… Because the crime is no longer against Varnika or me… the crime is against the state now. Once he has committed the crime, it is the state that will decide,” said Kundu. Responding to Barala’s statement on Tuesday that Varnika was “like” his daughter, Kundu said, “Subhash Barala has a daughter… is it okay that his daughter is chased by two goons at night?”

Kundu said the only “positive intervention” he had made to strengthen his daughter’s case was to call UT Home Secretary Anurag Aggarwal and the SSP Traffic, a Haryana-cadre police officer posted in Chandigarh, on Saturday morning, to ask them to secure the CCTV footage from the route through which the men chased his daughter. “I told the Home Secretary what had happened, (that) the CCTV may be sabotaged… this is my apprehension, we need to secure it. He said ‘we will take care, Chandigarh mein aisa nahin hota (such things don’t happen in Chandigarh),’ but what I feared happened,” he said, referring to the administration’s earlier claim that the cameras were not working. Kundu said there was enough evidence against the two men. Amid fears that the high-profile links of the accused had led to watering down of the charges to “stalking” and “wrongful restraint”, Kundu said some of his friends had advised him to appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Why should I do that,” he said. “After 70 years of independence, we should be able to expect that the police, prosecution and judiciary will do the right thing. I am testing the system to see if it can deliver justice.”

According to Kundu, after his daughter reached home on Friday night, both of them went back on a request from the police — first to the spot where the men had been nabbed and were still waiting, and then to the police station. “I introduced myself, at which the police asked me, ‘aap kya karna chahte hain (what do you want to do)’. We were clear from the beginning that we wanted a case to be registered. But what this shows is that the police are not mentally prepared to file an FIR immediately, although the policemen in the PCR saw the brazenness with which the crime was being committed,” he said. Kundu said it was fortunate that the crime was committed in the jurisdiction of Chandigarh police. “It would have been next to impossible (to get justice) in Haryana, despite being an IAS officer,” he said.

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