Stalking is an English word which means “to follow” or “shadow”. The cause depends on the stalkers’ interest in the target (whether natural of unnatural) and the effect is great harassment, irritation, threat and danger to the victim. If this stalking is done in the virtual or cyber space it is referred to as – Cyber Stalking. Thus cyber stalking entails amongst other things – repeated missed calls, repeated friend requests, repeated sms, repeated checking of profile of the victims, checking email, internet monitoring of the victim etc.
It has been observed that women are targeted the most under this category of cyber crime, though technically speaking a male can also be the target of a cyber stalking attack. There are numerous cases and reports each day of women and girls falling prey to such types of cyber stalkers and the number keeps going up each day. In the absence of proper security mechanism to protect victims and ignorance on the part of the victims to protect and insulate themselves effectively – this crime and its ill effects may increase in the times to come.
Most of these attacks are carried out by individuals known to the female victims (the acquaintance may be casual or serious). It has been observed that many times the victim is unaware that a particular known individual is making her the target of stalking and hence the stalkers gets a better opportunity to harass the victim and thus achieve his nefarious designs.
The effects of this cyber stalking is all pervasive and highly damaging to the victim. She starts feeling the effects all around and a feeling of a lack of security and support starts creeping in to the individuals mindset. This type of feeling is very destructive in the long run – as it can have grave psychological effects on the victim and may lead her to take extreme steps to get liberated from this all encompassing intrusion into her personal space – victims have even taken extreme steps like suicide as a result of persistent cyber stalking. This is a matter of real shame for the security agencies in particular and the whole society in general.
Certain well documented cases exist to bring in sharp focus the type and effects of this crime. The first case is of New Delhi; in fact this was the first recorded case of cyber stalking in India. In this case a cyber stalker named Manish Kathuria made a fake ID of his friends wife whose name was Ritu Kohli. He used this ID to register in a chatting site called MIRC. Then he started doing obscene chat using the fake ID created. He even downloaded a photograph of the victim and posted it with the ID. People with whom he did these obscene chats felt it was Ritu who was chatting with them and not Manish. The he put her number on the fake rofile and poor Ritu started getting obscene calls from all over the world. She got very harassed and along with her husband reported the matter to the Delhi Police and the cyber stalker was caught and prosecuted. The unique digital footprints of the cyber stalker ensured that he was rapidly brought to justice.
The second case is of Faridabad in Haryana. Here a college student Heena was stalked by her classmate Abhishekh and his friend Vivek. Vivek even tried to befriend her but when he failed they started stalking her using their mobile phones to repeatedly call and threaten Heena. Both these mobiles were working on SIM cards with fake addresses. An exasperated Heena took the ultimate stepped and jumped off the third floor balcony of her College hostel in Surajkund. Thus she took the extreme step and committed suicide.
These are sad tales of the state of affairs for girls and ladies in the cyber space. They should be more aware, alert and strong while operating in this space. Firstly they should not be befriended by unknown people in the virtual space. Secondly, if they ever feel or even suspect that they are being stalked they should not ignore it under any circumstance. This initial reluctance to take action by the victim only serves to embolden the offender. He takes it as tacit approval by the victim and is encouraged to take more extreme and harmful steps to harass the victim. Hence the best policy for any victim is to immediately report such occurrence to a senior family member, teacher or any adult she trusts. In addition an immediate report of the happenings and incidents should be made to the Police.
Police are empowered under Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code, to take punitive action against the accused. This section was introduced after the dastardly “Nirbhaya” incident of Delhi and it is a cognizable offence with a punishment of 3-5 years. Thus victims should be smart and strong to nip this activity in the bud and bring the accused to justice right at the outset. This will ensure that the the Hindi proverb “Na rahega baans na bajegi bansuri” is put to effect.