//Vinita Bharadwaj : Uncivilised in a civilised society

Vinita Bharadwaj : Uncivilised in a civilised society

By Vinita Bharadwaj, Gulf News Reporter, July 5, 2006

This, happened in India. A girl child helper of 10 years some say 14, but it's difficult to tell with the domestic help sorts was caught trying on her mistress's lipstick.

The mistress's daughter confronted the girl and asked her to confess that she had succumbed to temptation.

Out of fear I'm assuming here the girl denied it.

Enraged by this act and lies that followed, the mistress' daughter who let it be known, is a 40-year old mother of three from the happening Indian middle class stripped the girl, sodomised her with an aluminum rod that was covered with chilly powder and then smothered her to death.

The perpetrator then left the slumped girl on the floor of her mother's apartment, walked out, locked the door and returned to her own place in the same building. All this took place while her parents and brother were away from their apartment.

Upon her parents' and brother's return later that night, she explained what had happened and then the mistress, her daughter and the others hung the girl from a ceiling fan to show the police that it was a case of suicide.

Investigations by the police after they suspected rape, led them to unravel the gruesome details of this murder.

With no traces of semen found on the body and undeniably obvious injuries the family members were questioned. The daughter confessed to her crime and is now in police custody.

For the record, the crime took place in Mumbai. The same Mumbai that has been hailed in a recent Time magazine edition that had a special report on India as the place to be and where all the action's at.

It comes as no surprise that India and the Indian media are in shock over the incident.

The gory particulars, the age of the young girl, the profile of the torturer and murderer have left many a reader speechless over how an educated urban mother could? Was such action necessary over such an unnecessary accessory?

Child labour issue

On the one hand we have the child labour issue, which the elitist activist types love to bring up as if that was the root cause of incidents such as this taking place.

The problem, though, runs much deeper and has little or nothing to do with age. It has to do with our psyche and our basic regard or lack of for human life and rights, especially the girl child.

For all the emphasis on tradition, respecting elders, morality and social values, the inalienable truth of our society is that the large majority of domestic help and cheap labour in the country are treated like scum.

From being subjected to sexual aggression and abuse by the masters of the house to taunts and authoritative behaviour by the higher powers, economic muscle is a heavy weight for the poor.

Waiters are chided for late service, young delivery boys' ears are twisted for not bringing the right change, drivers are yelled at for taking the wrong turn, home helpers are the first suspect the moment something goes missing. It all happens. It's like that only.

Yes they are human rights violations, but before, critics of the Indian system jump up and condemn the state, it is important to attribute equal blame to the society.

Human rights violations take place everyday, everywhere, but unless the society itself is taught and trained to value fellow human beings as important resources to the community at large, they will continue, and incidents such as the Mumbai one will only increase, with details getting more hideous.

Considering cheap labour is so accessible and errand boys and girls are so easily affordable, most Indian households have the opportunity to employ at least one helper at some point. Few households though teach their children to respect these helpers.

Fewer try and educate the child helpers that work in their homes. And still fewer remember that though their helpers are from the poorest end of the socio-economic spectrum, they are still human beings, just like you and me.