Over a period of two days, Tamil Nadu has witnessed two horrific crimes perpetrated in an eerily similar manner. Both cases saw men, who refused to take no for an answer, attempting to end the life of the women who rejected their advances.
In Vellore, the stalker, identified as Shabi, a first year MBA student at a private college, slit the throat of Veena*, who had reportedly told him that she would only get married with the consent of her parents. Shabi attacked her on Sunday night at a busy junction in town. It is reported that Veena has been discharged from hospital. Shabi, meanwhile, has been booked for attempt to murder. Veenaâ€™s family had complained to the police previously about Shabiâ€™s behaviour, but the personnel had let him off with a warning.
On Monday, a man slashed the throat of a student when she was returning from her college, Annamalai University in Cuddalore district. Shilpa* was reportedly speaking to Nandakumar, but later, when she chose to stop talking to him, Nandakumar attacked her. As the victim left college, the stalker and she reportedly got into a heated argument, following which he stabbed her. While reports suggest that Shilpa's condition is stable, Nandakumar was apprehended by the locals and handed over to the cops.
According to Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code, stalking is an offence that is punishable with imprisonment of upto three years in the first instance and five years in the second.
Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998, notes that â€śwhoever commits or participates or abets harassment of women in or within the precincts of any educational institution, temple or place of worship, bus stop, road, railway station, cinema theatre, park, beach, place of festival, public service vehicle or vessel or any other place shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with a fine, which shall not be less than Rs.10,000.â€ť
However, in many cases, victims are helpless when the police donâ€™t act on previous complaints as was the case. When Ashwini was brutally murdered in the city in March, she had already complained about the stalking and the harassment but the police merely "counselled" the accused.
Speaking to TNM human rights activist and lawyer Sudha Ramalingam slams the ineffective implementation of the law. She says, â€śAfter Nirbhaya, the laws have become efficient. But its implementation hasnâ€™t.â€ť
While she says that one cannot expect the police to make an arrest on each complaint, she admits that the police needs to be thoroughly sensitised about the law.
â€śWhat is needed is proper counselling facilities. There is a need for a better education system, for males and females to interact with each other positively. We need co-education from the beginning in order to facilitate the natural intermingling of sexes. Thereâ€™s a patriarchal concept within the man that a woman doesn't have the right to shun the man. This can change only when we, as a society, ask ourselves questions,â€ť she says.
Last month, M Aswini, a BCom student at Meenakshi Academy of Higher Education and Research, was stabbed to death outside her college in KK Nagar, Chennai.
Weeks before her murder, she had complained about her stalker Alagesan to the police.
K Santhakumari, a senior lawyer in the Madras High Court, had told TNM that the police tend to ignore complaints of sexual harassment many a time, and that this must change.
"The station should mandatorily accept the complaint and send it to head office. This sends a message to the aggressor," she said.
"It is for the police to take action. The Police Commissioner should also have a periodic review of these complaints and ascertain if there are certain stations where such crimes happen more," she added.