Komal Gesala is currently studying in T.Y.BCom from Mithibai College. She loves writing short stories and blogging in her spare time.
Stalking- Don’t Run,Report
Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. It is the beginning or the starting step of heinous crimes like rape, sexual assault, acid attacks and even murder. In most of the cases of crimes against women, the accused usually stalks the victim for a number of days before committing any serious crime. However in a country like India, stalking wasn’t even considered as a criminal offence until the passing of The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 that made certain amendments in the Indian Penal Code and added various crimes like stalking and voyeurism as punishable offences. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 defines stalking as- To follow a woman and contact, or attempt to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or monitor the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication
More than 18,000 cases were registered in the last three years in New Delhi alone, the capital of India. And out of this not even half were convicted. Many cases go unregistered because women fear the police and many a times ask the police just to make the stalking stop and not file a complaint. This encourages the stalker and he may not stalk the same girl but go for someone else. There have been instances where stalking complaints were ridiculed by the police officers and instead women were asked to change their route and avoid the stalker. Also, stalking is portrayed as a way of showing affection, love and concern between lovers in Television serials, movies and shows which encourages young unemployed adults to do so. For them stalking is a casual thing but soon it turns in an unhealthy obsession that’s harmful for both the parties.
There have been numerous instances where stalking has led to molestation and murder. For instance- In January 1996, Priyadarshani Mattoo was stalked by Santosh Singh, son of a former IPS officer for several months. Even after her repeated complaints no serious action was taken against him. After several attempts and FIR for molestation was filed against him and she was provided with a PSO. But one day when Priyadarshani was alone he raped her, murdered her, shoved her body under the bed and fled. Singh was given a death sentence in 1999 which was later turned into life imprisonment in 2010. In March 2011, Radhika Tanwar was shot dead on a foot overbridge by her stalker Vijay, her case is still pending in court. In August 2012, Geetika Sharma committed suicide due to prolonged stalking and harassment by politician Gopal Kanda and his aide Aruna Chadha. The case is still under trial and the politician is out on bail. In July 2017, Riya Gautam was stabbed seven times by a youth named Adil who had been stalking her for a year and an half because she turned down his marriage proposal. In this case even the chargesheet hasn’t been filed yet.
It is crucial for women to acknowledge and report stalking at the very first instance. Police should encourage women to file complaints against stalkers and not fear the department or the stalker. Women should download safety apps on their phone and be alert all the times. They should rely on their gut feeling and report as soon as they feel that they are been followed or monitored by someone. Getting intimidated by the stalkers will only encourage and empower them. Women should look at the stalkers right in their eyes and shout for help from the locals to send a clear message to the stalkers that “we are not afraid”. There are several helplines that women can dial which get connected to the police control directly in case of emergencies.
Stalking is punishable under Section 354 D of The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 with imprisonment of not less than 1 year but which may extend up to 3 years and also fine. In case of repeat offenders the imprisonment could be up to 7 years along with fine. But in order for the offenders be punished it is essential for women to be bold and step forward to report stalking cases. If they are not willing to register a case with the police, they can even file a complaint online with the National commission for women. The commission will take up the matter to the police and ask them to conduct an investigation. Thus a case can be filed without even stepping out of the house. The commission also has various powers like summoning the accused, calling for witnesses, etc. However, all this can only work when women report and not run from the stalkers.
Opinions are of the writer.