Four months before Karuna, 22, was stabbed to death by her stalker in north Delhi on Tuesday, her family had settled for a compromise with her stalker Surender Singh’s family.
Karuna’s case is similar to Laxmi’s, 28, who was also stabbed by her stalker in southwest Delhi’s Inderpuri on Sunday. Last year, Laxmi’s family had also approached the police with a complaint against her stalker Sanjay, but the matter was settled when Sanjay’s family gave the police a written statement that he would not trouble Laxmi.
Stalking, an offence under Section 354 D of the India Penal Code, is bailable. Senior Delhi Police officers say stalking is more of a social than a law and order issue.
An officer who handles cases of crime against women said, “If somebody is stalking a woman without any physical contact, we can only register an FIR. We have to grant bail at the police station.”
Gender expert Kalpana Viswanath, co-founder of SafetiPin, a women safety app, told HT that most men who stalk women need psychological help. “Men cannot handle rejection due to which such cases are reported. Stalking must be taken seriously both by the family of the victim and the police. When a parent decides to report it, the police feel it is not a serious case and the person is let off after a warning.”
Former Delhi Police commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma said there is no legally ready-made solution to tackle stalking. “A girl’s family happens to be the weaker side in such cases. After a compromise is reached, in some cases most stalkers feel undeterred and continue their acts which at times take unfortunate turns. This issue can be handled only when the police, the stalker’s family and the society come together.”
Sharma also said that fear of punishment must be instilled in the minds of the stalkers.
Another gender expert, Madhu Vij, said mostly, the two families reach a compromise because of the fear of the consequences of the police coming to question and the uncertainty over justice. “The reputation of a girl, her family also plays an important role when two individuals decide to compromise,” she said.
Sociologist Patricia Uberoi said that people agreeing to compromise are very common in India even in rape cases. “One of the main reasons is the time-consuming judicial system. Even if someone decides to take them to court, it takes a lot of time for justice to be delivered. At other times, it is the cultural context which is in operation which leads to the compromise,” she said.