People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 14, 2007
AN OFFERING OF CURRENT MODEL OF “DEVELOPMENT”
Gruesome Killings In Nithari
Sudha Sundararaman and Indu Agnihotri
A SEVEN-member AIDWA team, led by its general secretary Sudha Sundararaman visited Nithari village in Noida, UP on January 4, 2007. Members spoke at length to the vast crowds that had congregated at the Noida Sector 31 crossroads, where shocked residents were still trying to cope with the fresh details pouring out on a daily basis after the ghastly discovery of skeletons in the drain nearby on December 29, 2006. The delegation met some of the families whose members had become victims of the unbelievably horrifying serial killings that have appalled the nation.
The delegation also included vice president Pramila Pandhe, CEC members Sonia Verma, Indu Agnihotri, AIDWA office bearers from Delhi –– Asha Sharma, Asha Yadav, and Kavita, the local unit secretary Lata Singh, who were accompanied by CITU comrades Ram Bahadur Sabhya and Madan Prasad.
On reaching the spot, members were besieged by family members of children who had gone missing over the last year and more, all of whom pointed out that their complaints and desperate pleas had not been taken seriously by the local police. Discussions with these families sharply focused on the callousness of the police and administration in Noida, due to which the spine chilling murders continued without exposure for such a shocking period of time.
Most of the affected families were from extremely poor, working class backgrounds. As mentioned in media reports these are migrant workers, who have come from other states in search of work. It also needs to be mentioned that most of the children gone missing are from families where both parents have had to go out to work. Some of the women first reported missing and now known to be no more alive, were domestic workers or reportedly looking for work when they became victims of these perverse criminals.
Residents of Nithari village are yet to recover from the shock of the discovery of clothes and the skeletal remains of their loved ones from house number D-5 adjacent to the slum cluster which is what the old village has now become. Reports of the discovery have in fact been attracting members of families of many other children lost in recent months/years, some of whom were earlier residing in this area.
Asha and Dipankar Mandal, who had migrated from Nadia district of West Bengal were in search of Sushant Mandal, their 16-year old son who had gone missing from this area in 2002. The mother was approaching everybody in tears, with copies of the complaint that they had submitted to the police, and photographs of their young son.
Saraswathi Devi, the 8-year old daughter of Suman and Mahesh Varma, has been missing since 2005. The father, currently an auto driver in Chandigarh, was accompanied by the mother, both of whom had fear and grief writ large on their face. Their child too had gone missing from near a house in Chandigarh, which too belonged to Moninder Singh Pandher.
The Shyamsundar family, which had moved to Nithari from Lucknow, recounted the reaction of the police when they went to register a complaint about their missing daughter-named Sunny, seven years old. The police had at that time insulted the pregnant mother, saying – you useless woman, why do you produce so many babies, when you don’t know how to take care of them?
Neelam Saini, aged 11 years had been missing from Noida since sometime in 2004-5. Her mother, a vegetable vendor, looked distraught as she went around pleading with all those visiting the area to help her find her child. Sushma Das, a widow presently living in Sector 9 jhuggis in Noida, was looking for her 22-year old son Bhola Das, who had also been missing for sometime now.
The delegation visited the house of Pinky Haldar, whose family was from Behrampur district of West Bengal. She was 20 years old, with a one and a half year old baby. She was called to the house of Moninder Singh for a job, and had gone missing 3 months back. When the family went to the police with a complaint, the police refused to register the complaint saying she had run away with somebody. The parents of the girl had identified her clothes in the house of the accused. They had not received the compensation along with the others, as promised.
From the same set of living quarters, Beena Haldar, 13 years old, went missing in March 2005. The parents belong to Murshidabad district of West Bengal. The police had refused to register the complaint accusing her of having run away with someone.
A similar story was recounted by the family of 25-year old Pooja from the house below. The family has migrated here from West Midnapore. She too had gone missing, leaving behind two small children.
NO FIRM ANSWERS
The families reported that a local inhabitant, Maya Sarkar, would take some of those later found missing, to the house of the accused, in the hope of finding employment. Was she also possibly an agent of the accused? The police are yet to provide firm answers to the numerous questions residents of Nithari have. These incidents bring out the vulnerability of migrant women in search of jobs, as well as the assumptions made about their character, apart from highlighting the worst forms of exploitation that they are exposed to.
Residents expressed fears that the NMC hospital and maybe others nearby had been indulging in organ trade, and that since the doctors had powerful contacts, their role in the bone-chilling murders, apparently carried out with clinical precision, would not get exposed. They expressed fears about the large on-going racket in body parts, in which personnel from both the police and administration in Noida, appear to be also involved.
Clutching on to copies of the FIRs, complaints made to the police and photographs of their dear ones who had gone missing over several months, many came from different parts of Noida township, as well as from other parts of the neighbouring capital region. They came with despair as well as a glimmer of hope that maybe they too may get some news of their lost ones. Their poverty and desperation were there for all to see. Many had taken leave from their daily wage work to make yet another attempt to look for their near ones. It is a sad commentary on the administrative machinery that parents have to undergo the trauma of living with this uncertainty about the fate of their loved ones for months, even years; that their enquiries only meet with cold insensitive responses, such as Pinky’s, who were told that maybe their daughter had run away with some man! While the grown up women could be thus accused of misdemeanour without any basis nor with any thought to the feelings of their family members, what explanation would the police have for the nearly 58 children gone missing over the last several years from this area?
These few pathetic tales offer a glimpse of this tragedy of massive proportions. These poor families, have moved here from distant villages and towns in search of employment which is part of the rural - urban distress migration occurring in huge numbers. The migrant parents work largely in the unorganised sector, with the women very often being employed as domestic workers in neighbouring colonies. There are no facilities for their children, no crèches where they can leave their children, when going to work, nor are they covered by the ICDS or anganwadi network. In face of the State’s refusal to even acknowledge their existence, leave alone provide for them, these children are vulnerable to all kinds of violence. The gruesome killings of Nithari are a grim reminder of what current models of development offer to the large mass of people and what they provide for the children, ‘who are our future,’ as none fail to mention often.
AIDWA members went into the dingy slum area, where the most unhygienic conditions prevail with no adequate provision for water and sanitation. The narrow lanes also double as toilets for the children. In the depressing Delhi cold, ill-clad as they were, they braved with awe and fear in their eyes, the momentary but intensive media exposure that they are unwontedly receiving in this market-led profit-driven society where human life holds value for all the wrong reasons. Nithari village, like other such villages in Noida, surrounded and submerged by the fast expanding urban settlement, does not offer even a patch of greenery, nor any space for children to play except the water tank surface, from where many went missing. Nithari has become a full-fledged urban slum, with local families having built tenements which serve as tiny, overcrowded rooms housing many such migrant families. No basic facilities have been made available to these workers or to the village.
LONG STRUGGLE AHEAD FOR JUSTICE
AIDWA has condemned the crime in no uncertain terms. It extends its deepest sympathies to the affected families and commits itself to long-term support in their struggle for justice by the victim’s families. The organisation plans to maintain contacts with the working women of the area on a long-term basis in order to ensure that their just demands are met. Towards this end it has drawn up a plan to focus on the following demands as a beginning:
AIDWA strongly supports the demand for a CBI inquiry into the entire series of incidents at the earliest. The investigation should be completed within a specific time frame, and all those found guilty should be punished.
Stern legal action should be taken against police and officials who have been found guilty of negligence.
Families of all children gone missing from this area over the last few years should receive compensation. This should be irrespective of the exercise of DNA matching since the authorities are unable to provide explanations for the crime, which is their primary responsibility. There should be total transparency in the distribution of the relief package.
The buildings and property of the accused should be immediately attached. The suggestion that a suitable memorial be set up for the victims be seriously considered. AIDWA would extend this to be in the shape of making community support centre facilities available for migrant workers’ children.
Long-term measures should be undertaken to ensure that the migrant workers, whose children have become soft targets for criminals, are provided basic entitlements like functioning anganwadis, crèche facilities, etc.
Young migrant women in search of jobs have also become victims, and this issue also needs to be addressed by the government.
There is a need to consider the setting up of a monitoring mechanism to keep track of the extensive large scale migration which is happening under the aegis of the new development policies and give serious consideration to evolving social security measures for this section of workers, especially keeping in mind the specific needs of women workers.
AIDWA members joined the protest organised against the callousness of the police and to demand that justice be done, on behalf of all sections of people on January 6, 2007.
Nithari has received a lot of media attention in the last week. Many politicians have also visited the village and assured its residents full support in their efforts to get justice. But of all those who came calling, the remarks of the Uttar Pradesh PWD minister, who also happens to be the younger brother of the present chief minister, dismissing these unprecedented barbaric killings as a chhoti moti ghatna jo hoti hi rehti hain (such small incidents keep happening) stand apart. They reveal a disgusting arrogance and callousness, particularly towards the affected families of the underprivileged sections, something missing when the child of a high-flying CEO went missing a few months ago. AIDWA wholeheartedly condemns this approach. It is time the UP government sat up and realised the gross violations of law and order being committed under its nose, so to say. There is a need to be sensitive to the suffering of these people and to ensure not only that justice is done to the families of victims, but also that the nexus behind these killings is exposed and broken to restore the confidence of the people.