A young woman at the centre of a high profile stalking case that has gripped India for days has spoken of her surprise at becoming a rallying call for women’s rights across the South Asian nation of 1.3 billion.
Varnika Kundu, a 29-year-old DJ, told the Telegraph that she felt “vindicated” after two men were arrested and charged on Wednesday with attempting to kidnap her when they chased her car late on Friday night through the northern Indian city of Chandigarh.
The arrests followed an impromptu “AintNoCinderella” Twitter campaign of Indian women posting defiant pictures of themselves out after midnight after a senior male politician suggested Ms Kundu was at fault for being “out so late in the night.”
In a Facebook post that quickly went viral, Ms Kundu described a terrifying ordeal where the perpetrators drove parallel to her car for 25 minutes and then blocked her car before “aggressively” trying to enter her vehicle.
She said they enjoyed her distress, and felt lucky that she was “not lying raped and murdered in a ditch somewhere.”
In an interview, Ms Kundu said her story had struck a chord with many Indian women who had told her of similar experiences.
Their support had helped her through attempts to sully her character for driving alone at night.
“It’s been overwhelming,” she said. “I think Indian women are just so sick and tired of being treated like second class citizens, of just being told because you were born different you’re not good enough, you can’t do the same things that a boy can do.”
Women’s rights, and victim shaming, has been a particularly sensitive issue in India since the horrific gang rape and murder of physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh, 23, in a moving bus in Delhi in 2012.
The case shocked India to the core, but the victim was also criticised for going to the cinema in the evening with a male friend.
The defence lawyer for her attackers claimed that if his own daughter “allowed herself to lose face and character” that he would “set her alight.”
In Ms Kundu’s case, a senior politician from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Ramveer Bhatti, appeared to question her morals when speaking to the Times of India.
“Why was she allowed to roam around at night? Parents should not allow their children to stay out late … what is the point of roaming around at night?” he said.
Mr Bhatti later back-tracked on his comments, but not before Ms Kundu dismissed his questions as “none of his business.”
She said she was grateful through her ordeal to have been given a platform to challenge deep-seated patriarchal attitudes in modern Indian society.
“I’ve said things that all Indian women have always wanted to say. Basic questions like why does the victim have to answer?” she said.