Chandigarh stalking: Indian women fight victim-blaming with 'midnight selfies'

Politician said woman chased for 30 mins 'should not have gone out so late'

(Image credit: Gayathri Devi‏/Twitter)

Indian women are flooding social media with "midnight selfies" after a prominent politician implied that a woman who claimed to have narrowly escaped being kidnapped should not have been out at night.

Varnika Kundu, a radio DJ, was driving home late on Friday night in Chandigarh, the capital city of the northern state of Haryana, when she noticed two men following her in an SUV.

"They seemed to really be enjoying harassing a lone girl in the middle of the night," she wrote in a Facebook post describing the incident.

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Kundu says the ordeal lasted half an hour, and she feared she would be abducted. "They would keep trying to corner me, and I'd somehow manoeuvre my way out and keep moving," she wrote, adding that police arrived just as one of the men was trying to open her car door.

The post quickly went viral on Indian social media - as did a controversial response from Ramveer Bhatti, the vice-president of the Haryana division of the ruling BJP party.

"The girl should not have gone out at 12 in the night," he told CNN-News18, and parents should not "allow" their children to go out so late. Kundu is 29.

Bhatti's remarks were met with a tide of "midnight selfies" from women across India, who posted pictures of themselves exercising their right to go out at night. Actress and politician Divya Spandana got the ball rolling:

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The hashtag #AintNoCinderella was quickly adopted by dozens of other women, who joined in with photos of themselves going about their business after dark:

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Many of the comments were directed at the BJP government, which has come under fire for its failure to adequately tackle crimes against women.

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The "Chandigarh stalking" case has already become a cause celebre in India, due to the fact that one of the would-be kidnappers was identified as the son of Subhash Barala, the regional president of the BJP.

Many of Kundu's supporters claim that police have deliberately undermined the investigation into Vikas Barala and his alleged accomplice, Ashish Kumar, due to Barala's political connection. The opposition Indian Congress party "alleged that police charged him with bailable offences on purpose, so he could be shielded," the Times of India reports.

A sign outside Subhash Barala's official residence bearing the slogan "Save your daughters, teach your daughters" also drew withering remarks on social media.

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Chandigarh police chief Tajender Luthra has sought to quell the outrage, insisting that the case is being taken seriously. "Everything under the sun will be done to ensure justice," he told ANI news.

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