Child murders show India's poor live below justice

When Pappu Lal went to his local police station to report that his eight-year-old daughter had gone missing, he was dismissed out of hand.

Child murders show India's poor live below justice

"The police said 'you people just give birth to children and leave them on the streets -- and then you want police to find them when they go missing'", Lal said, outside the house where his daughter's skull, bones and clothes were found eight months later.

Lal's daughter Rachna was one of 17 women and children whose remains were dug up last month from the backyard and drain of a rich, well-connected businessman's house in Noida, a satellite of New Delhi known for call centres, shopping malls and nightclubs.

The mass murder story has gripped, shocked and shamed India since it came to light not far from the headquarters of several major television stations.

All of the victims' families were migrants from rural India, who had come to Noida to pick up the crumbs from the tables of the growing middle class. All ended up living just a few yards from what the media have dubbed "the House of Death".

None, apparently, had the money or clout to get the police interested when their children began disappearing two years ago.

"This was a totally preventable tragedy," said Kiran Bedi, India's first and most famous female police officer and director general of the Bureau of Police Research and Development. "This is total professional apathy and political failure."

Bandana Sarkar lives in a small single room crowded with plastic jars and a few cheap music cassettes, cheek-by-jowl with other domestic servants down a muddy alleyway.

The police, she says, refused to take any notice when she told them her 20-year-old daughter Pinky had gone.

"Police said your daughter is beautiful, she might have run away with a man," she said.

In the end, Sarkar was forced to identify her daughter's blood-stained clothes and scarf. As she talked to Reuters, her 18-month-old grandson -- Pinky's son -- slept under a blanket.

"Her child cries for his mummy. He wants her but he doesn't know his mother will never come back to him."


Police have arrested the businessman who owns the house as well as his servant, and the media have been baying for blood, all but convicting both men before they are even charged.

The case has sparked a public outcry and six policemen have been sacked for failing to act on the parents' reports.

It was all very different when the three-year-old son of the Indian head of U.S. design software company Adobe was kidnapped, also in Noida, in November. The police response was immediate, dramatic and very public, and the child was eventually found.

"That was one child. Why was he dealt with in such a different way than the (latest) Noida case?" said Kate Dancy of Save the Children in New Delhi. "It's quite obvious really."

In India, nearly 45,000 children are recorded as missing every year, according to figures compiled by the National Human Rights Commission, more than 11,000 of whom are never traced.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg, Dancy and other activists say. Millions of children from poor families have been tricked and trafficked into work as domestic servants, labourers or prostitutes, and many lose touch with their parents.

Police ignore trafficking or actively profit from it, activists say. Nor would they normally classify a report of a missing child as a "cognisable offence" -- so it would not show up on annual crime figures or swell the number of unsolved cases.

"For every registered crime you need time, resources and people to investigate," said Bedi.

"A natural consequence of inadequate resources is you use them only for crisis response, for cases which concern the rich and wealthy who can buy your services. You are up for sale."

Domestic servant Aloki Halder and her tea-vendor husband Gopal had no money to bribe the police to investigate when their only daughter, 13-year-old Bina, disappeared last year.

Now the government has given them half a million rupees in compensation and a small plot of land.

"It's so difficult to think that no one will ever call me mother any more," she said, in tears. "I miss her so much. All I ever wanted was to get her back. Compensation doesn't relieve the grief of knowing that my girl is dead."

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16