One of the worst reactions you can have to an attack or any kind of abusive event is to blame the victim. But time and time again, people who are seeking justice for the way they have been mistreated are instead put under the microscope, with the details of their life and choices pointed to as the reason for their suffering in the first place.
This is what happened to Varnika Kundu, a DJ living in the city of Chandigargh in the North of India, just last week. Kundu was driving home from work on a Friday night when she was tailed, then chased, by a group of men on the road. Fortunately she survived the incident physically unscathed, but was still shaken up – venting her anger and warning others by posting a description of her ordeal on Facebook.
While the police intervened before her attackers could do any serious damage, she spread the message in a viral post, which brought the ordeal to the attention of the media. But what Varnika didn’t expect was for the dreadful experience to be blamed on her, for the simple act of being out past midnight…
She details how two men in a car pulled up alongside her, swerving towards her to scare her. The car eventually blocked the road entirely, at which point she called the police. The car continued to chase her throughout the city, and at one point a passenger exited his vehicle and tried to force entry into her’s. Luckily, at this moment he attempted this, the police arrived and arrested them both.
Both the men were from influential families, one being Vikas Barala, the son of a prominent politician from India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Part (BJP). He was arrested, being accused of “stalking, drink-driving and attempt to kidnap”. Kundu said she was it was only due to the quick response of the police that she is “not lying raped and murdered in a ditch somewhere”.
But since then, Ramveer Bhatti, a senior politician, has blamed her for what happened. “The girl should not have gone out at 12 in the night,” he told CNN-News18, “Why was she driving so late in the night? The atmosphere is not right we need to take care of ourselves.”
It was after these comments that women started posting photos of themselves out after midnight, along with the hashtag #AintNoCinderella.
Divya Spandana, the activist and popular actress who goes by the screen name of Ramya, was the voice behind this campaign. “Why shouldn’t women go out after midnight?” she said to the BBC, “I’m asking people like Mr. Bhatti – who are they to set curfew hours for us? I want to ask him who is he to question us? This is such a regressive mindset.”
In the message that started it all, Divya wrote:
“Ladies, how often have you heard something regressive like this from the mouth of a ‘leader’ who doesn’t know much better? I’ll answer: too often. This time they’re telling us when we can and cannot go out of the our houses. This has to STOP.”
The hashtag is still going strong, so you can continue to see the women rebelling against such comments, while it remains to be seen whether the two men who attacked Varnika will be sentenced, and how long for.