Monday, November 7, 2011

Collective Absence of Responsibility

Yet another shameful chapter has been etched into our bloodstained history. When murderers roam free, adding on to the crimes on their head, people look on ignoring the fact that there is safety in numbers. And why not, since Mumbai has turned into ‘goon-land’, with certain politicians trying to keep these criminals out of jail. It’s these very goons who help them retain their seats of power.

Tragic it is that two brave young men were attacked, their only fault being their innate sense of chivalry which made them retaliate when their female friends were molested by an inebriated man. What could have been a trivial incident blew out of proportion when the eve-teaser returned with a gang of 21, armed with knives and sticks, and set upon the youngsters, stabbing two of them mortally, even as the other boys hurried the girls away to safety.

There were people, even guards, watching the incident in front of Mumbai’s Amboli Bar and Kitchen, much as though they were watching a movie being shot. Unfortunately real blood was being spilt. Twenty-four year old Keenan Santos was stabbed several times and died in hospital. Reuben Fernandes was also stabbed, and taken to hospital, where his life hung on a thread, unaware of his friend’s death. One version goes that the cops pushed their way into the ICU to ‘interrogate’ him. The 29-year-old Reuben, who had not realised that Keenan was no more, was jostled into consciousness, after which he remained upset the whole night, which worsened his condition further. A week later there was another martyr to the cause of eve-teasing.

Wasn’t Mumbai always the safest city ever for women? Why was a man with two murder cases wandering around the streets with impunity? Why is there always a sense of apathy amongst the bystanders? It is understandable that they would not have wanted to risk their lives, but couldn’t they have helped to get the boys to the nearest hospital? Why do criminals hide their faces when apprehended, especially when they are thick-skinned enough to act like fiends against humanity? How many decades will it take before a girl can walk around without being subject to eve-teasing and being ogled?

A Facebook page has been created in the name of Keenan Santos and when last checked the number was at 56,000 and steadily rising. The heinous crime has touched myriad hearts and public anger has overtaken sorrow.

Every time one of these criminals walks free, it is the dignity of the honest citizen, the bravery of the intrepid fighter and the hope of the optimistic commoner that plummets a notch further. There is a tendency to look over one’s shoulder, to choose to wait and watch before climbing into that crowded bus and to keep one’s fingers crossed that one reaches home safe and sound every-single-day.

Let us stop talking about the resilience of a city like Mumbai as those are mere words spoken by those who watch from a safe distance. The citizens should realise there is strength in unity, and vow to stand together to thwart crimes that take place under their noses. Even the cornered worm turns when pushed to its limits. And we are humans, blessed with brains and common sense. As Helen Keller put it: “Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.”

The New Indian Express
7th November 2011


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