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Does Chandigarh’s Gedi Culture Make It “Okay to Stalk Women”?

In the aftermath of the Varnika case, Chandigarh debates: Is “gedi culture” normalising and encouraging stalking?

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“Gedi is actually a Punjabi word. What it means is to go for a round. It was around the 1990s that this gedi culture began. For a long time, it was just frolic between young people. Nobody crossed boundaries or committed excesses. That has changed. Nowadays, it is a serious nuisance with cases of stalking coming forward.”

IAS officer Virender Kundu says he is wary about what Chandigarh’s gedi culture has come to represent. It has been a week since his 29-year-old daughter, Varnika, was stalked at midnight by Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala’s son, Vikas.

In the aftermath of the Varnika case, Chandigarh debates: Is “gedi culture” normalising and encouraging stalking?
IAS officer Virender Kundu
(Photo: The Quint)
In the aftermath of the media frenzy and the public outrage over the Varnika case, a heated debate has consumed Chandigarh. Is the city’s legendary “gedi culture” normalising and encouraging stalking? Is gedi a threat to women’s safety in Chandigarh?
In the aftermath of the Varnika case, Chandigarh debates: Is “gedi culture” normalising and encouraging stalking?
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But Wait, What's Gedi?

Gedi refers to roaming around and hanging out with friends in your car. The popularity of this activity in a certain part of Chandigarh has led to the area being colloquially called ‘the gedi route’.

Visit the gedi route on any given day and you will be greeted by flashy cars performing fancy stunts. The youngsters on the route, as you might well expect, are known to be a boisterous lot.

'Gedi Implies Stalking'

In the aftermath of the Varnika case, Chandigarh debates: Is “gedi culture” normalising and encouraging stalking?
22-year-old Jannat Banga recounts the horrors of the gedi route.
(Photo: The Quint)

22-year-old Jannat Banga has been staying in Chandigarh for the last four years. And she is no fan of the city’s gedi culture.

The minute you say ‘gedi’, the most implied and understood meaning of it is stalking a girl. I think every girl who has been in those sectors (of the gedi route) has been a victim of stalking, eve-teasing and harassment. The men comment on our body parts. One of my friends had a used condom thrown at her.
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‘Gedi Is Not a Menace’

But there are those who disagree with Jannat’s argument that gedi must be curbed – like 23-year-old Aryan Khanna, who says that women welcome the stalking.

In the aftermath of the Varnika case, Chandigarh debates: Is “gedi culture” normalising and encouraging stalking?
23-year-old Aryan Khanna sees no problem with the gedi culture.
(Photo: The Quint)
The women come here themselves and get guys to chase them. Only when the girls respond favourably do the boys follow them – a little look here, a little smile there.

Sharandeep, a Masters student at Punjab University, is equally defensive of the gedi culture. “Both boys and girls stalk each other, and both parties enjoy themselves,” he says.

In the aftermath of the Varnika case, Chandigarh debates: Is “gedi culture” normalising and encouraging stalking?
Sharandeep, a second-year MA Economics student at Punjab University.
(Photo: The Quint)
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A March Until Midnight

Late night on Friday, hundreds of women took to the streets of Chandigarh, protesting against a culture of stalking and demanding equal access to public spaces, especially at night. They were accompanied in no small number by men who agreed with the cause and its demands.

The anger at being regularly stalked along the gedi route was spilling over. The women declared that they weren’t going to take it lying down anymore.

Towards the end of the protest, Amy Singh, one of the organisers of the march, boomed into the microphone:

Yeh gedi route nahi, yeh meri route hai. 

Shubhangi Singh, one of the protesters at the march, was seen holding a torch alight. On being asked what the torch signified, Singh replied:

This is the flame that burns inside us. Today, we are expressing it.
In the aftermath of the Varnika case, Chandigarh debates: Is “gedi culture” normalising and encouraging stalking?
Shubhangi Singh at the protest in Chandigarh.
(Photo: The Quint)

The protesters have also begun an online campaign asking Google to rename the ‘Geri route’ as ‘Azaadi (Freedom) Route’ on Google Maps.

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Fighting for Our Daughters' Freedom

Three-year-old Ekam Kaur is at the march with her parents, cradled in her father’s arms. It’s close to midnight. We ask Ekam’s mother Jasmine why they chose to attend the protest.

If women leave the house in fear today, our daughters will be as afraid in the years to come. I want freedom for Ekam, not fear. She should be able to live her life as she pleases. That is the future she deserves.
In the aftermath of the Varnika case, Chandigarh debates: Is “gedi culture” normalising and encouraging stalking?
Three-year-old Ekam and her parents at the protest march in Chandigarh.
(Photo: The Quint)
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Will Ekam have the future that her parents dream of, one where she is not scared to step out?

Cameraperson: Abhay Sharma
Video Editor:
Puneet Bhatia

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