Solution to stalking must go beyond policing, say experts

The alleged killing of a medical student at Kothamangalam in Ernakulam by a youngster, despite his promise to police not to stalk her, bares the glaring absence of effective mental health interventions

July 31, 2021 04:14 pm | Updated 05:16 pm IST - KOCHI

Stalking and youngsters falling prey to relations over social media have turned rampant.

Stalking and youngsters falling prey to relations over social media have turned rampant.

The gunning down of a 24-year-old medical student at Nellikuzhi near Kothamangalam in Ernakulam district of Kerala by a man she had met over Instagram a year ago points to the need for intervention beyond that of the police, who predominantly looks at such instances from the angle of law and order.

That the 32-year-old Rakhil’s promise to the police not to stalk her any longer over a month before he shot her dead draws attention to the glaring absence of a professional mental health intervention in between.

“There seems to be a trend to settle such things at a police station as if police personnel are best equipped to address them. As commendable are their increasing basket of social services, the police are not ideal to address multifactorial problems like pathological dependence possibly arising from personality disorders or familial circumstances. It is possible that in this case, someone had intimate knowledge about the over-dependence and possessive behaviour of the accused and should have roped in his dear and near ones to arrange for professional corrective interventions,” said psychiatrist C.J. John.

P. Vijayan, Inspector General and Director of Social Policing, observed that while preventing a crime was not possible, preemptive policing to detect and root out negative thoughts and emotional outbursts before they turn into criminal tendencies holds much significance.

“Not every problem has a solution in policing and calls for the convergence of multiple agencies pooling together their resources, manpower, and collective authority. No single agency can do the job, and there is the need for cultivating a culture of collaboration. We plan to convert social policing into an ideal platform for that convergence,” he said.

Elizabeth Antony, clinical psychologist at the Ernakulam General Hospital, said stalking and youngsters falling prey to relations over social media were very rampant. “The glorification of stalking, including in movies, means that youngsters don’t even seem to realise that it’s a crime. They simply seem ignorant about the possibility of a putting a healthy end to what turns out to be a toxic relation. Also, there seems to be groups at work targeting vulnerable young girls and women on social media,” she said.

Nandakishore Harikumar, who runs a cyber security start-up, said the spectre of toxic and even fatal impact of social media was only going to rise. “We are in for an era of deep fake of Artificial Intelligence-driven fake identities to prey on vulnerable people. Cyber security hygiene should be made part of school syllabus. Just like young ones are taught about good and bad touches, they should also be taught the good and bad things about Internet and social media,” he said.

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