The recent case of an unemployed Chennai stalker setting his love interest on fire in her own house has rattled the consciousness of the thinking class. Incidentally, off late there has been a spike in such cases in India, especially in the southern part of the country. However, it really canot be determined ifthe location of such occurrances have anything to do with what runs inside a stalker's mind. It is more of a mentality, a mind set that an individual has toward the opposite sex.
Stalking, according to a report by the Psychology Today, is defined as "repeated and unwanted attention harassment, contact, or any other behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear". And that is irrespective of the geographical position of the individual.
Reading a stalker's mind
Studies conducted by psychologist Brian Spitzberg at San Diego State University on the psychology of a stalker somehow corroborates the intentions of the accused in the Swathi murder case and the above-mentioned case. In both the cases, the men were unemployed and in 'love' with working women. Both the victims belonged to middle-class families and were doing well in their lives before tragedy struck.
The thread that joins the two incidences are uncannily similar. Both Ramkumar (in Swathi murder case) and Akash (in the Induja murder case) were younger to the victims, unemployed and presumably disturbed. They wanted something bigger and better in their lives without even trying. Both the men desparately wanted to be in love and both of them could not take rejection, which resulted in the death of their victims before causing a lot of psychological distress and fear in them.
Spitzberg, in his study, details how things work. The relentless neurotic nature of the stalker can take the form of harassing their targets, calling them repeatedly, as well as sending letters and gifts. If these are ineffective, the individual may escalate to more intrusive behaviors such as spying on, and unexpectedly confronting their victims. Research tends to focus on how violating it is to bear the brunt of stalkers’ obsessions. And that is what exactly happened in both the cases. Both the girls had to pay with their lives.
In a separate study conducted by researcher Katrina Baum at the National Institute of Justice in Washington, victims were asked what they thought motivated the actions of their stalkers. Out of the 3,416,460 victims, 36.6% considered stalker motivations as “retaliation, anger or spite,” 32.9% replied “control,” and 23.4% said “mental illness or emotional instability.”
Stalking in the Indian mindset
Incidentally, the first two opinions of the victims in Baum's survey is apt in the Indian set-up. In a country where women are still featured much below in the social heirarchy, the recurring tension between the two genders often culminates into violent repurcussions. '
A desparate, unemployed youth, sourned by his love interest who is more stable than him arouses a sense of inferiority. Whatever the case is, the man has to rule and the woman has to be ruled. It never works the other way round in such cases in India. Spurning the advances of such men means spurning their socio-economic status, which is not acceptable in many cases.
Australian stalking expert Paul Mullen, then clinical director and chief psychiatrist at Victoria’s Forensicare, had classified this scenario as the rejected stalking type. In such cases, individuals who have experienced unwanted end of a close relationship (as seen by them) tend to become revengeful when all their attempts of reconciliations fail.
Another overlapping stalker type is that of the resentful stalker who is convinced that rejecting his love is a way of humiliating him. The stalker believes that he has been treated unfairly and starts looking at himself as a victim.
The Parochial Patriarch
A stalker in the Indian set up looks for dominance over his victim- both psychological and physical. Mullen would describe them as the predator stalker. These people like to gather information about their targets, with no intentions of having a romantic relationship, but to control them psychologically. The victim is inhibited by the fact that a complete stranger knows so much about her, without even meeting her. Instilled with fear, she is already overpowered psychologically.
The predator stalker revels in this and enjoys seeing his victims in pain. The power play does not end there. The dominance of the male has to be established physically too. The victim has to be "taught a lesson", which means she either has to be sexually assaulted or has to be harmed to show that she actually is inferior to him, despite her sociao-economic stature.
Consider this, in both Swathi's and Induja's case, the stalkers knew about their whereabouts and the whereabouts of their families. Ramkumar knew where he would find Swathi at 6:20 in the morning and Akash knew that Induja's father worked in Canada and that he would be away from home.
All said and done, can we really fragment stalking as a behaviour according to geographical locations? Perhaps not. It is a mindset that can prevail the psyche of anyone from any part of the world. However, it is preventable with proper medical and psychological attention.