In a series of tweets, Babul Supriyo, who is Union minister of state for heavy industry, made light of the crime a senior BJP leader’s son in Chandigarh has been accused of committing.
New Delhi: Less than 24 hours after BJP spokesperson Shaina N.C. attacked the character of Varnika Kundu – the young woman whom goons in Chandigarh had attempted to abduct on Saturday – Union minister Babul Supriyo leapt into the fray with a series of tweets which sought to make light of the crime with the kind of ‘boys will be boys’ logic that other politicians have resorted to in the past.
Following Shaina’s footsteps, who drew widespread ridicule for deleting her tweet and then blaming “mischievous folks” for having hacked her account, Supriyo too on Wednesday deleted one of his tweets where he tried to normalise stalking by claiming that it is common in colleges.
In her complaint, Kundu, a DJ and daughter of an IAS officer, accused Vikas Barala and his friend Ashish Kumar of chasing her through the streets of the city with the intention of kidnapping her.
Barala and his friend, Ashish Kumar, were arrested on Saturday and later released on bail.
On Tuesday, Supriyo, who is a singer-turned-BJP politician from Bengal and minister of state for heavy industries in the Modi government, posted a series of tweets from his verified handle:
Resorting to whataboutery, Supriyo asked why the “justice seekers weren’t raising their voices for the 61-year-old woman who was raped in West Bengal”.
The two men in Chandigarh were initially arrested and charged under Section 354 D (stalking) of the IPC and Section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act (driving by a drunken person or by a person under the influence of drugs) as well as the more serious Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 365 (kidnapping) and 511 (attempt to commit offences punishable with imprisonment).
Also read: ‘Someone Has to Stand Up to Goons From Influential Families. We Are Standing. So Long as We Can’
However, the charges were later reduced and the two men were released on bail. After facing a backlash for their U-turn, the police said that they were seeking legal opinion regarding the dropped sections.
When asked by The Wire‘s social media editor, Karnika Kohli, whether he thought Barala was merely trying to play hide and seek with the woman, Supriyo bizarrely accused Kohli of having a “dirty mind”:
Supriyo also slammed the media for being unfair to the accused.
#ApologizeBabulSupriyo: How Twitter reacted
Near-future tweet: "My Twitter account has been hacked" —Babul Supriyo
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) August 8, 2017
Does Babul Supriyo know what he's saying? Is he high on something? Is his singing career over that he has free time to make such statements?
— Vivek Tejuja (@vivekisms) August 8, 2017
Utterly shameful but when your PM follows trolls who make rape threats this is the cascade effect https://t.co/MJiiknx5LL
— Swati Chaturvedi (@bainjal) August 8, 2017
This person is a minister. My tax money goes to paying his salary. Does his party condone his open misogyny? https://t.co/j9NVbRDvrq
— Namita Bhandare (@namitabhandare) August 8, 2017
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) August 8, 2017
If the union minister who thinks stalking is just a mischief is blocking you too, please share screenshots here. And RT 🙂 pic.twitter.com/hj35OD0iwL
— Vivek (@ivivek_nambiar) August 8, 2017
After being called out for being misogynistic, Supriyo, whose Twitter bio states that his ‘team has fun blocking handles’, tweeted:
Shaina NC, who tweeted an old image of Kundu with two boys on Monday – one of whom she misidentified as Vikas Barala – and referred to the DJ as “so called victim beti”, had claimed that some “mischievous folks” had briefly “hacked” her account.
Just gt access back to my account; some mischievous folks had hacked the account.
Please ignore any activity on my account of past few hours
— ShainaNC (@ShainaNC) August 7, 2017
Ramveer Bhatti, vice president of the BJP In Haryana, also blamed the young woman for “staying out so late in the night”.
Assailant’s family resorts to victim-shaming
In a Facebook post, that has now been deleted, a member of the Barala family, Kuldeep Barala – who also describes himself as having “worked at Bharatiya Janata party” – shared a photo of the victim with two men and implied that she was drunk at the time of the incident.
In another post, the man shared an old photograph of Kundu with glasses of alcohol in the foreground, again trying to raise questions about her character, and claimed that the incident was being blown our of proportion by the Opposition to malign the BJP leader’s image. The images were lifted from her Facebook page.
‘Varnika is like my daughter’
Breaking his silence, Vikas Barala’s father addressed the media on Tuesday. “Varnika is like my daughter, there is no pressure to influence the investigation,” said Barala.
“The law should take its own course, the BJP is a party which believes in women’s rights and freedom,” he added.
Note: This story was updated on August 10 to include information that Supriyo deleted one of his tweets.