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    On the Spot - Tavleen Singh

Noida � The mirror of Indian society
Thursday, January 11, 2007 9:36:5 IST
In that mirror, if we dare to look, we will see a society that has long accepted that India is a country in which there are civil privileges and not civil rights

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Rarely have I seen Delhi�s drawing rooms in such a deep state of shock as they are over the killings in Nithari. It�s hard to go anywhere in these cold and foggy days without the subject coming up. He (Maninder) went to Bishop Cotton School, bejewelled ladies gasp, and (St) Stephens. How could he. Meaning, how dare he let the side down. And, Noida, imagine something like this happening in Noida. What this means is that to the upper echelons of Delhi society Noida is a town where former bureaucrats, judges and executives end up in genteel retirement because till a few years ago land was relatively cheap and you could build yourself the sort of house only the rich can afford in central Delhi any more. Sadly, the horror of what the parents of the dead children must be going through does not cause much concern in the drawing rooms. When you grow up in privileged circles in India what the poor and underprivileged do to each other does not usually matter so massacres, ethnic killings and caste atrocities tend to go unnoticed. The son of the software engineer who was kidnapped and rescued in Noida not long ago made more impact than the tragic fate of the children who were raped and murdered by Maninder Singh Pandher and his servant.

It�s a usual thing
What is worrying about the Nithari killings is that nobody seems to have fully understood that Noida holds a mirror up to Indian society in which we should all be able to see our faces. In that mirror, if we dare to look, we will see a society that has long accepted that India is a country in which there are civil privileges and not civil rights. If you are middle class and speak English and your child gets kidnapped the police will leap into action and hundreds of television crews will camp outside your door till the child is found. If you are poor, nameless and living in one of the shantytowns that border glittering new towns like Noida then the police will not bother to even register a case because they know your child counts for nothing. So, it was only after human bones and the clothes and shoes of the dead children were fished out of a drain outside Maninder Singh�s expensive house that we discovered that 38 children disappeared from Nithari in the past year. Only then, that we discovered that the National Commission for Women had tried getting the police to act and failed.  It�s a horrible thing to say but the person who most understood the unimportance of the children of the poor and underprivileged was Mulayam Singh Yadav�s brother who admitted on national television that �such small things happen all the time�. He was roundly condemned for this and Mulayam Singh�s lieutenant, Amar Singh, was sent the next day to control the damage done by the Chief Minister�s brother but sadly, he spoke the truth.
This is why all that is likely to happen now by way of justice is that some of the policemen who were negligent in their duties will be transferred to places more obscure than Noida and the law will take its very slow course. Who knows but, like Manu Sharma, Maninder Singh will make bail while his trial proceeds and if we forget Nithari (public memory is short) and if he has enough money he will be able to buy his way out and nobody will even remember what he did.
If we want real change, we will have to demand better policing. There is no other way. We have a police force that is trained in the old, colonial way so the average Indian policeman is insensitive to the concerns of the poor and illiterate.

The little preys
The weakest of India�s citizens are street children and all you need to do is stop and ask one of them who he fears most in life. Without hesitation, he will tell you that it is the police. In cities like Mumbai and Delhi street children are routinely robbed of their meagre earnings by the police, little girls learn to take rape for granted and everyone knows that any kind of resistance will result in the sort of merciless beating that an NDTV reporter recently captured on his camera at New Delhi railway station.
If there has been any change in police behaviour in recent times it is only that, they have realized the joys of having their mug on television. The unfortunate consequence of this is that it has confirmed their view that they need to make special efforts to solve a crime only if it involves the rich, the educated and the middle classes. When little Anant, the son of Adobe India�s CEO, Naresh Gupta was kidnapped from outside his Noida house last November remember the fuss? There was so much television coverage of the kidnapping that Gupta had to beg reporters (on camera) to leave the family in peace. But, on account of the attention that was paid to the disappearance of Anant the U.P. police was forced to act with speed and efficiency and the child was found in days.  If they had shown half as much alacrity in Nithari the lives of more than half of those children, who died such terrible deaths may have been saved. That is the real horror of Nithari.

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