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Ragini Dubey went to the police, as did Priyadarshini Mattoo. But their gruesome murders -- over 20 years apart -- indicate that when it comes to stalking, little has changed. When Dubey, 17, refused the persistent advances made by Prince Tiwari, the son of a gram pradhan, little did the Ballia teen know that she would be stalked to death. She was killed on her way to school last week. Mattoo, a Delhi law student whose rape and murder shook the country in 1996, too may never have imagined that her stalker would end up killing her. "Stalking can be the beginning of rape, acid attack or even murder," warned Ranjana Kumari, Director of the Centre for Social Research here, as she emphasised that the problem needs to be dealt with at the initial stage itself. "People think boys are only making advances, but it needs to be stamped out at that stalking level," she told PTI. Another stalking incident has also grabbed the headlines and brought the issue to the national centre stage. In this case, it was the daughter of a senior IAS officer who was allegedly chased by Vikas Barala, the son of Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala, and his friend in a car on the night of August 4. The trivialisation of stalking as a crime became evident when Union minister Babul Supriyo in a tweet likened the offence to a "boy chase girl" scenario. "We all went to college and know, like reel, 'Boy chase Girl' exists in real life too", he tweeted. Activist Kavita Krishnan rued the "constant trivialisation" of stalking as a crime. "Our approach to stalking is wrong. It has become an ideology that women are the problem," she said. Stalking, she stressed, was more than a general social problem. "There is an urgent need to make the government accountable.
The government should take action against its functionaries that trivialise stalking," she said. She referred to Uttar Pradesh's anti-romeo squads, which let off Dubey's stalker with a warning, and said such groups define "consensual love as a problem but are soft on stalking". According to a 2015 report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 6,266 cases of stalking were reported across the country, out of which 1,124 incidents occurred in Delhi alone. Krishnan, the secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), stressed that the bailable nature of the offence allowed it to be downplayed. Vikas Barala, for instance, was granted bail the same day he was taken into custody. The attempt to abduction charge was added later and he was re-arrested. When a stalker is released, often the accused returns to the victim with renewed vengeance that takes the shape of an extreme form of violence: rape, acid attack or even murder. "The essential problem with stalking is that it is a bailable offence. The police complaint escalates the situation, and after getting bail, the offender does much more harm," Krishnan said. Alok Dixit of the Delhi-based Chhanv, a support centre for acid attack survivors, recalled an incident where a teenage girl in Bijnore was pursued by a 55-year-old man. Once an FIR was filed, the stalker was taken into custody, beaten up by the police and released with a warning. "After his release, he threw acid on the girl," Dixit told PTI. Low conviction rate is another problem, Krishnan noted. She said that often even police officials try to persuade complainants and their families to strike a compromise with the offenders. The NCRB report shows out of the 1,220 men arrested for stalking, 1017 were given bail and only 203 were held in custody during the stage of investigation. "Law will not have a deterrent effect unless it is followed by punitive action. It does not become effective in our society because law enforcement agencies do not take stalking seriously," Kumari said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)