Express News Service
CHANDIGARH: Chandigarh’s CCTV cameras seem to be VIP blind.
At midnight last Friday, Varnika Kundu, daughter of senior Haryana IAS officer V S Kundu, was allegedly stalked and chased and nearly abducted by two men, Vikas Barala, son of Haryana BJP president Subhash Barala, and a friend.
In a hair-raising Facebook post, Varnika Kundu wrote of her horrendous experience as she drove desperately to evade the two men in pursuit of her in their SUV. Her narrative has kicked up a social media storm, and a controversy about the safety of women in Chandigarh, India’s most planned city.
It ought to have been an open-shut case. The incident took place in a VIP area and the midnight chase went past busy markets, intersections and police lines on it. There were at least nine places where CCTV footage would have recorded the incident:
1. It begins with the place where Vikas Barala and his friend allegedly consumed liquor. There was a CCTV at the wine shop in Sector 9 where Vikas and his friend bought liquor.
2. There were CCTV cameras at the petrol pump and market in Sector 7 where both men allegedly drank openly and began following the girl in their car.
3. There were cameras at the Sector 26 light point near Khalsa College where they tried to stop Varnika Kundu’s car first.
4. There were cameras at the Sector 26-7 light point, the Sector 26 light point and at the grain market roundabout.
5. There were cameras at the Transport light point, the railway station light point and the Kalagram light point.
6. There was a camera at the housing board light point, where Varnika finally found help from a PCR van that came in just the nick of time as the two men tried to pull her out of her car.
But here’s the real news: the cameras at all these points have footage of the incident. The cameras are not functioning, the police say.
Here’s what deputy superintendent of police Satish Kumar said bare-faced: “From Sector 7 to the Housing Board light point in Manimjara, CCTV cameras installed by the police were not working on Friday night. So we cannot get the footage to check what really happened.’’ He added: “In the statement given by the girl before the magistrate, she has not mentioned anything about the two men trying to kidnap her. We have sent the statement to the district attorney for a legal opinion. If any section is to be added to the case against the two men, it will be after taking legal his opinion.’’ CCTV security has been something of a pet issue for Chandigarh director-general of police Tejinder Singh Luthara ever since he took up the post.
However, Varnika Kundu is not willing to let this rest. She is determined to take the case to its logical end.
In a post on post on social media, her father V S Kundu stated, “If we do not persist in trying to bring the guilty to justice, more and more daughters will suffer this hurt.” Congress leader Randeep Surjewala has alleged this is an attempted coverup. “It is extremely clear that the BJP is pressurizing the Chandigarh administration and to protect the son of a political leader. A chase of seven km at midnight, attempt to block the girl’s car and forcibly open the door and try to enter the car, is that not a clear case of abduction and attempt to the modesty of a woman? Why have these offences not been lodged?”