one more tale of two Indias

A short news item aired yesterday showed relatives of children killed in Noida by serial killers blocking a road and protesting the slow pace of the probe.

My mind travels back to the week where the whole nation watched the nightmare of NOIDA unfold. Rewind to a few weeks earlier and one’s thoughts go to the plight of the 50 odd Ghaziabad orphanage girls waiting to be released while their abuser smirked on.

Somehow the girls seem lost in some incomprehensible labyrinth of justice and bureaucracy that mere mortals cannot reach. The mind races back to the time when one could visit them in spite of the harrowing presence of their abuser, and bring them a few moments of solace.

Now one just sits helpless and lost.

Recently we experienced the deafening furore of Ms Shetty and her tryst with the celebrity big brother. The racist remarks ultimately paid. Few months ago Jessica and Priyardhasini got the much awaited justice when voices took on their case. But those voices belonged to well educated, English speaking upmarket people and hence they were heard. They belonged to the right India, as did those that ensured that little Anant return home safely!

The Ghaziabad girls and the Nithari children do not have that luck. The voices heard yesterday were not the right ones.

Let us not forget that the true perpetrator of the crimes against the Nithari children was not the predator but the police and the administration. Today again it seems that the same game is being played.

In a few days or weeks, the tired parents will have to go back to the task of surviving and even these feeble voices will die out.

I had feared this would happen and hoped that we would see the writing on the wall and do something. My fear has been confirmed, my hope shattered.

Many heralded 2006 as the year of the rise of civil society, maybe one should add a rider: it only words in one India, the other remains unchanged.

where broken hearts get fixed

heartrfix

Little anisha will have her heart fixed. Hers is the 10th broken heart that has come our way for fixing! Each with its own story, each with the hopes and prayers of the ones that gave it life. Each came from across the invisible barriers that divide our society with hope written large on their faces, a hope we could not shatter. Raju came in 2003 and garnering the 100 000 rs required seemed an impossible task, yet it happened. And somehow each subsequent one became a tad easier. So before we could even get the virtual begging process started for anisha, an angel dropped the required amount quietly without much ado or fanfare.

Was it only 4 years ago that a heart surgery required so much mailing and explaining. Was it only 4 years ago that silent petitions had to be sent to godji to ensure that the missing numbers came by before the scheduled dates. Or is there a hidden message shrouded in the apparent ease with which the amount required for anisha’s surgery was met.

I do not know.

Somehow she entered our lives when we were all trying to grasp the horrific unfolding of the NOIDA killings. I cannot say why, but she brought into the room the much needed hope we were all gasping for. Her eyes held a fleeting promise that maybe we could redeem ourselves and begin to build the much needed bridges to reach those we have so pathetically let down.

In her huge eyes one could see the eyes all the slain and abused children asking us to gather the courage to see them rather than look away as they were children just like ours who were let down by uncaring adults. Her parents stood silently, painfully aware of the fact that they belonged to the other side and that invisible barriers existed and needed to be respected. Their eyes pleading, their words barely audible, their answers hesitant were stark reminders of the fact that two Indias existed beyond doubt and in that little room both were present.

And what was at stake was a child’s life. My mind went to the mothers who must have stood at the gate of a police station seeking help to find their lost child and geting none and to the sense of utter despair that must have filled them when they understood that none was forthcoming.

It does not take much to lend a helping hand, to build a tiny bond that does not take much from us but can perhaps help save a life or at least bring hope and solace.

The times they are changing.

Two Dylan songs struck a chord in me when I was a young and someone remained with me all through they years well into my old age. That was way back in the early sixties.

The Nithari tragedy brought them back as it seemed as if they had been written yesterday:

How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

and

Come senators, congressmen, please head the call
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he that has stalled
The battle outside ragging will soon
shake your windows rattle your hall
For the times, they are a changing

and yet 44 years have passed and everything seems unchanged, seems there have not been sufficient deaths and the halls have not been rattled loud enough.

Yesterday a debate on television addressed the Nithari serial killings and related issues. A retired cop, an eminent lawyer and two political opponents engaged in a perfectly orchestrated blame game. Among the topics discussed was the issue of different rules for different people based on which side of the fence they happen to belong to.

Why debate on it when a mere glance at the audience proved that point beyond doubt. A group of people from Nithari had been invited and sat on one side, away from the rest the invisible and impregnable divide sticking out like a sore thumb.

Oh yes they debated and all agreed upon the fact that the poor had a raw deal, that cops humiliate and snubbed them, that things were not right and had to be changed. And with the necessary drama options were lobbed: change laws, amend acts, remake the world..

In the meantime more children will disappear, be abused and killed. More poor will have their rights trampled and life will go on without change. The poor will go back to their world as they have to carry surviving and the rich will find something else to debate upon.

The culprit in the NOIDA or the Ghaziabad tragedies is not the paedophile or the individual sick mind. Such people have existed since time immemorial and will always do. Come to think of it the chemicals of a brain can go wrong once in a while. Of course they need to be punished and put away.

The problem is far deeper and the responsibility lies within each one of us and not in finding something or someone to blame: be it the party in power or age old social ills. The true culprit is civil society who did not react at the appropriate moment. The true culprit is each one of us who feels that such things cannot happen to us and do not concern us. We all know how we walk away from a accident site for fear of getting involved with the police, how easily we dip in our pockets to break that tiny law that is irksome, how we throw names left, right and centre to slip out of the system in place, how we never find the time to help another, how get rid off the disturbing beggar by throwing a few coins but never dare look into his eyes, in a word how we each and every day reinforce the barriers between them and us.

We revel living in our world not realising how fragile it is. Our so called sense of safety depends on the simple fact that those on the other side have not found their voice but the day is not far when a tiny incident will unleash a force we will not be able to contain.

Every moment brings us closer to that day. In our rush to acquire material goals we are eroding the very foundation of our lives. The debate on whether there are different rules is not an intellectual one, it has to strike a chord in our very spirit and make us change our attitudes and ways. The responsibility for the NOIDA killings lies in each and every one of us and true healing will only begin when we have the moral courage to accept that.

The times they are changing and answer is blowing in the wind.

whose right is it anyway

Remember the ghaziabad girls? Some of us may have forgotten them as so many other horror stories have come our way and they have become yesterday’s news.

Yet somewhere in the dead of winter they await justice.

Their case came for hearing at the Supreme Court yesterday. One searched furiously for some news and was aghast to find out from a fleeting item on the news channel ticker that the case had been adjourned as the NHRC failed to file their report.

Something was terribly wrong. Only a month ago the plight of these girls was splashed all over the media. Today they seem forgotten and what is worse is that one cannot even get to them as they are protected by numerous government bodies and incommunicado.

The NOIDA murders are today’s news, wonder what it will be tomorrow.

And yet somehow to me their plight seems more poignant as they are alive. Their abuse was not a momentary flare of the dark side of a Dr Jekyll but the cool calculated planned action of their supposed protector. Even the mentally challenged were not spared.

The attitude of the so called organisations made to protect children is exposed here. Why did the NHRC not file their report? How much investigation, interrogation, cross-examination do they have to do conduct to ascertain what is evident to each one of us who read the story and saw the images?

It has also been reported that the National Commission for Women knew about the missing children of NOIDA six months ago. Wonder how many innocent lives could have been spared had they acted in time.

The ghaziabad girls are waiting for justice and it is time we did something to help them unless human rights differ according to one’s social origin.

A chilling thought….

a little bit of hope

The past week has been marked by the terrible plight of children in India, something we can in no way be proud of. The horror of the NOIDA missing kids seemed to be a catalyst of sorts.

Yesterday a nine year old Nayan was found dead, his parents still busy trying to get the ransom together. Yesterday again in a hurried drive to rid our capital city of the bad and the ugly, a 12 day old baby was bulldozed in a slum demolition drive as the mother only had time to save her other child.

The feeling of total helplessness and hopelessness gnawed at my very soul. The sense that all the hue and cry raised in these cases would soon die down after everyone had got their piece of the action was evident. What could one do..

As I sat lost in my thoughts looking for some sign of hope, little Anisha entered the room breaking the dark spell that surrounded us. Anisha is 8 months old but weighs a mere 4 kilos. her emaciated body looks line a new born’s but her eyes sparkle to show that she is a big girl who responds to her name, claps her little hands and is filled with a desire to live. But there is a catch, she has a cardiac congenital malfunctioning and needs open heart surgery.

This would be our 10th case but somehow little Anisha seemed special as she came at a time where we all needed to be reassured that hope still existed. In helping fix her heart, we would perhaps be able to heal ours a little and find the now sagging courage to carry on.

I do not know if we will be able to raise the 55 000 rs needed to give Anisha a tomorrow but somehow we feel we will. This little child who came after two sisters and was not the boy that her parents wanted needs to be saved to vindicate our belief that every child is worth fighting for and saving and that each one of us has the power to do so if we truly care.

not yet time

A friend dropped by this morning. We had not met for a long time, yet there was a time when we shared the same ideas and concern and were all set to rebuild the world over innumerable cups of coffee. At that time we both taught in universities. We liked the same books, the same songs and shared similar aspirations. I cannot remember what was said and thought, but I do recall that we both felt deeply that things were not right.

Life took its course and he remained a teacher and still teaches in a prime institution. I left my comfortable, pensionable post as I had felt stifled. Family obligations saw me criss-crossing the planet and it was only a few years back that I set roots and felt I had reached my destination.

The last time we met, we only knew one side of the invisble divide that fractures our country and conjured the other the way we wanted to see it. But this time it was different, I had crossed the line and experienced first hand what reality was, seeing each and every of my preconceived notions being blown to pieces, and re-looking at the very issues we had debated upon with new eyes.

It took me but a few minutes to get to my pet subject and talk about my dream of seeing the children of India grow together, side by side, without any labels stuck to their foreheads, taking time to build their own. Somehow I had expected T to agree to what I said. I was astonished to see his reaction and stunned when he mentioned public-private partnership in education.

A pall was cast on what had started as a happy meeting. We fumbled through the next few minutes and bid farewell. For a long time I sat in silence wondering what had happened in those years to change things between us. Why was it that felt so deeply about bridging gaps whereas all others be it politicians, educationists and so forth maintained that solutions lay in widening the gap. Had history past and recent not given us sufficient proof of how the very fabric of our society was getting destroyed by the multitude of divisive policies we were following leaving far behind the ‘we the people of India..’ of our Constitution?

T’s reaction was disturbing as I knew that he was intrinsically a good person, truly wanting to see change. He taught the best minds and thus could impart new ideas and ideologies were he to believe in them. Then why a total rejection of a common school idea. And why on the other hand was my belief strengthened each and every day. What had happened to both of us who started much in the same way?

Maybe it was the fact that I had experienced the other side, or was it that time was not yet ripe, that our social baggage was so heavy that we were still not ready to accept our children rubbing shoulders with ‘their’ kids!

All these questions plagued me all day along.

Yet I was to be validated sooner than I thought. The evening news carried the following: the brutal murders of many young children in NOIDA have touched a chord around India. For the first time, residents of NOIDA’s bungalows are now venturing out, offering a helping hand to those who work in their houses.
The year 2006 was a year that saw so many conviction. Now taking the same spirit into 2007, the battle has just begun and so tragic as it is that it’s taken the horrific serial killings to bridge the glaring class divide between an urban slum and a swanky suburban town.(NDTVnews)

Sad that so many innocent lives had to be lost to see this. I wonder how many of the mothers must have sought help when the child disappeared. I can also imagine the reaction of the likes of me who must have offered kind words and maybe money but were unwilling to make that trip to the police station.

But it is not time to cry over what cannot be changed, but celebrate this new beginning and to ensure that this very fragile spark is kept alive. There are so many who can get justice if they have our support and maybe it is a way of redressing a system that has run amok. Filing a simple FIR, as one discovered today, is a nightmare even for an educated person. Simple rights have been usurped by a feudal attitude that sets the rules turning victims into accused.

One has to also ensure that this new found compassion does not become another power game or get hijacked on the way by those waiting in the wings for any cause to espouse to fulfil their own agendas.

I said earlier that maybe the time was not ripe for the elusive common school system. However I want to believe that if people have found it in their heart to reach out to their poorer brethren, then slowly they may also come to accept one day to have their kids share a school bench.

I guess the penny will drop when one comes to understand that in doing so we are not doling out any charity but investing in our own tomorrows.


How many more..

How many more children will have to be abused, mutilated and killed, how many more mothers will have to live with questions than can never be answered before we become responsible as a civil society and say enough!

We are supposed to have a law and order mechanism but what we forget is that these work only for those who have money, power or at least a vote. The parents of the dead children of Nithari did not have any of these. Migrants from other states, they came in search of work with a hope that maybe they will be able to give their children a better life. Instead they sent them straight to a horrific death.

Imagine the plight of a parent whose child has disappeared. Imagine his sense of utter defeat as he knocks at the portals of a police station and is sent away over and over again with contempt. Imagine his despair when he is told that the children of the likes of him do not exist for the so called system. Imagine the days and nights spent in waiting for a miracle that never comes. And finally imagine that closure comes with a set of clothes, a heap of bones and the realisation of the horror that one cannot begin to imagine.

Then try to envisage what that parent feels when in the dead of night and numbed with excruciating pain he realises that just a stones’ throw away another child also disappeared and within moments everyone was on their toes: policemen, politicians, admin bigwigs et al and within days the child was back home.

Welcome again to the great divide of India, one that is even more poignant in a land where democracy is supposed to protect each and every one. Have we forgotten the preamble of our constitution where we promised to secure to all citizens among other things justice, social, economic and political.

When did invisible barriers appear along the way and segregated people and marginalised some. When did our constitution get hijacked by hidden agendas and why did we just sit and watch it happen. Was it because the likes of us knew that we would remain on the right side of the fence.

Once again one’s head hangs in shame. The past months has been filled with such moments: the orphanage in ghaziabad, the little fingers for a handful of spinach, and now countless children mutilated and killed, their organs traded so that someone with money could live making some rich on the way.

2006 was the year of people power but before that power also falls prey to the great divide it, we need to act if we are to redeem the right to be worthy of ourselves. Or let me put it another way, one that maybe is better understood in our pathetic times, it is time to act now if we are to protect and secure our own future, as the day is not far when the cumulative pain and anger of those we have shunned away will rise and I know that on that day all the gods in heaven will be on their side.

a matter of the kidney..

Go buy a kidney for your son, it costs one hundred thousand rupees” were the words said almost casually to a desperate mother by a doctor of a leading government hospital. The son is our own Nanhe battling renal failure.I guess for the doctor it was a quick an easy way of getting rid of a annoying woman.

But this post is not about Nanhe. Many of us have been trying to shun the images of the little children of noida, massacred over the years our own Mr Hyde. As the story unfolds so does the horror makes us wonder what makes a so called human being lure children and kill them mercilessly. Why were only skulls found. What happened to the bodies. is this the work of a paedophile.

This morning a news item seemed to suggest that we may in the presence of a organ sale racket and that the children were used to that end. And as the enormity seeps in, it makes sense, terrible sense..

Wonder how many desperate parents and families are told each day to ‘go buy a kidney‘ by doctors? We all know what desperation leads and are aware of market forces as these permeate any situation where a buck can be earned.

So poor children easily seduced by a treat or a handful of pennies seem easy targets. And another handful will take care of the law and order machinery. Poor parents are easily shunned off and the macabre game is on.

So do you tell nanhe’s mom that the kidney that may save the life of her son has taken the life of another’s mom’s child? Or does one convince doctors to assess the implications of their words before they utter them?

I wonder

Invisible and impregnable barriers

Many newspapers and news channels chose to sum up 2006 in India as an year where people power finally emerged. True they have many reasons to do so: Jessica and Priyadarshini got justice, the Right to Information Act was salvaged from potential hijackers and the son of MNC boss returned home safely after being kidnapped.

The media too played a pro-active role in getting justice to many individuals be it a slum kid dreaming to represent India, a poor old couple begging for survival, little girls in an orphanage being abused by their caretaker, a little challenged kid abandoned by his family..

So can we dare to say that all is well on planet India?

Maybe not. There are many Jessicas waiting for justice, many old couples in need of help and as we all saw in silent horror many children kidnapped and killed as parents knock uselessly at the doors of police stations. The difference is hat they are from the wrong side of the invisible barriers that divide us and do not have what is required: money, contacts, access and even the not so often mentioned miracle tool – good command of English.

Some manage to break the barriers if for some reason or the other they get picked up by he media and if in the heat of the moment some tangible action comes their way, well and good, otherwise they sink into oblivion after their brief moment of glory.

This is not meant to be a cynical post but a simple call to all the invisible voices who came o the fore to help get justice when they felt it was in danger. Time has come to ensure people’s power reaches out to all those who have been hurt, abused or let down and to bring about long term changes to ensure that they get justice.

The Noida children could have been saved had the police registered the FIRs and set out to look for them with the same diligence as in the case of high profile children. Civil society should go beyond addressing specific cases and seek out long term solutions.

They have the power, what is needed is the will to exercise it. Only then can the invisble barrers be broken.