Saturday, April 24, 2010

In Life

I wonder if a platform was in place ... could have been a technology platform with the school as nodal centre ... now that broadband is reaching villages ... so that these two girls got to know each other in life. Both are victims. One fought valiantly and got justice, ably supported by an NGO, Anhad. The other succumbed. One notable difference. In the second case, the fight was against own people, parents ... the root cause being poverty. Difficult to fight own people. Still wish to believe ... if this girl could have sent an SOS to an appropriate network and the other girl (from same background) responded after receiving the message, things would have been different. Awareness, entrepreneurship, feelings/love for our own people in distress and believing in the right to livelihood for all as much as we do for ourselves ... is there in all of us, may be dormant, needs cultivation. Next is .. how to reach, how to facilitate, how to become an enabler, how to make use of what we learn in the best technology institution of the country ... for the upliftment of masses. Now the news of the second girl first as it appeared in today's TOI.

All she wanted to do was go to school. Maybe she thought education would let her escape from a life of poverty and ignorance. But there’s no way to find out anymore — Firoza Khatun drank pesticide and took her own life days before she was to be married off by her parents to a neighbour.
Firoza, the daughter of labourer Ekhtar Sk and Asalu Biwi, was a resident of Mojampur in Malda’s Kaliachak. Firoza was studying in Class V of Mojampur High Madarsa. But Ekhtar and Asalu had three daughters and a son and were finding it difficult to send her to school.
Six months back, before leaving for Delhi to work as a labourer, Ekhtar decided to get Firoza married once he returned. Like Firoza, her elder sister Sammi was married off at the age of 14 last year.
A month back, Asalu stopped Firoza from attending school. Firoza pleaded with her mother but she went to the madarsa and had her daughter’s name struck off the rolls. She then decided to engage Firoza in bidi-making, a staple job for most women in the area.
Meanwhile, the family started negotiating with a neighbourhood boy’s family for the marriage. Firoza kept saying she didn’t want to marry, but no one listened.
Ekhtar returned from Delhi a few days back and wasted no time in wrapping up the negotiations. On Friday morning, some members of the groom’s family came to Ekhtar’s house. After some discussions, a date was fixed for next month.
In the afternoon, once the groom’s relatives had left, Ekhtar and his wife heard someone groaning in one of the rooms. They both rushed in to find Firoza lying on the floor, frothing at the mouth, an empty bottle of pesticide lying by her. She was still partly conscious and kept saying, “I won’t marry. I want to go to school”.

Can we hear the scream/whisper of the partly conscious dying teen - "I won't marry. I want to go to school." While Ferozas are not allowed to go to school, some of us in IIT campus feel that once we cleared IIT-JEE, it's time to enjoy. End-sem. exam. started on THU. Yesterday (SAT), the full evening music was played in full volume in a hall next to our quarter ... so loud that we had to shut off all the windows. Imagine what is happening to residents of that hostel. Not everybody there subscribe to this mode of enjoyment during exam.. It shows that some of us are, powerful enough to rule, are making fun of education. And this is the irony of the situation. The underprivileged (contrary to the popular belief) here wants to study and the privileged once reaching a safety spot (i.e. ensuring IIT degree) are no more serious. I am not trying to generalize but asking attention towards our orientation and approach. As one enters IIT, one cannot miss the sentence in main building "Dedicated to the service of the nation." What does it mean? Is the building dedicated or its service?

Now onto the valiant work of the first girl. It is reported in today's Telegraph.

A 13-year-old village girl from Bengal who was taken from town to town in Gujarat by traffickers and raped by “customers” returned with police to each of the safe-houses, managing to remember every street and address in an unfamiliar state.

Mithu Das’s monumental feat of memory has helped put 10 men and women members of the inter-state child trafficking-and-prostitution ring behind bars, police say.

Mithu (name changed), now 16, had never stepped out of hometown Habra, North 24-Parganas, before the gang took her away three years ago. After she was rescued by the NGO Anhad a little over two months later, she remembered every unfamiliar place name: Mehsana, Baroda, Viratnagar, Ahmedabad, Kanpur.

She remembered the addresses of the private homes, hotels and guesthouses where she was stripped, raped and battered day after day — and walked bravely back into those very buildings and rooms, accompanied by the police.

“She has been absolutely brilliant. The investigation became so much easier because of Mithu,” said Prakshita Rathore, a Gujarat policewoman.

“Although she had never been to Gujarat before, she not only took the police team to the places where she was locked up but also identified the gang members by name. There were lanes and bylanes and she didn’t take a step wrong. In the end she busted the network in Gujarat.”

Bengal girls are some of the worst victims of trafficking. A study by Save the Children in collaboration with the Bengal government revealed that across 265 villages in the state, 3,429 children had left home to work in urban centres and 271 of them — one per village — never returned.

Mithu said: “I don’t have a good memory, but I have to fight the case. I have to say what happened to me in detail; so I remember.”

“The truth is,” she added, “I want to forget everything, start life anew and be happy. I want to study and work hard.

Mithu, however, has a personal battle to fight. She is HIV-positive — one outcome of her two-month ordeal.

“I don’t think she understands the implications yet. But she is a strong girl,” said Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad.

Salute to Mithu. Salute to Anhad. Yes, she is a strong girl. She was in Class V when abducted and brutalized. Her memory helped, even if she does not want to remember them. Not everyone is as gifted (even if courageous, cannot recount properly and culprits escape).

Wish Feroza interacted with Mithu and I am sure she could have the strength and a way towards solution. Let Feroza rest in peace. Let Mithu get her share of happiness, freedom. Let we all think how we can contribute, how we can dedicate ourselves.


spring said...

I happened to come across this blog... It is well written and the lives of the two girls well analyzed(may her soul rest in peace). "I am not trying to generalize but asking attention towards our orientation and approach".I would sure love to know your suggestions and ideas on orientation and approach .

spring said...

I happened to come across this blog... It is well written and the lives of the two girls well analyzed(may her soul rest in peace). "I am not trying to generalize but asking attention towards our orientation and approach".I would sure love to know your suggestions and ideas on orientation and approach .

gs said...

Thanks Spring for sharing a chord. Let me put it this way. Say, mother has asked two brothers to get something from the market. After shopping they are returning home, walking. The elder, stronger brother is carrying the heavier bag, the younger, weaker none or a lighter bag. If opposite (stronger taking lighter load) happens, we disagree, call it obscene, call it exploitation and if possible try to correct it by engaging us with the elder, stronger brother.

The same applies to us too. The more capable we are, the more is our responsibility towards the nation. The more responsible we are, the more should be our effort to enhance our capacity. The deprived millions have a stake in me. If I fail, I make them fail too. Therefore, I need to give my best and make the best of the opportunity that comes in my way.

The nation is not in a position to give all the students the best of the education. Only a handful of students in IITs get it while the vast majority languish as has been mentioned in this post. The idea behind IITs that are 'dedicated to the service of the nation' is to create excellence and when these excellent students give it back to the society there is a multiplying effect and the opportunities reach more and more underprivileged.

We got freedom in 1947. If we look at lives of Feroza, Mithu - can they be called free? Don't they look like a slave of a barbarian age? Can we call ourselves civilized? Can we stand before any other nation with head held high?

We need another freedom struggle where the fight is against inequality, hunger, lack of education, health, employment - first of all we need to inculcate the sense of responsibility. Next we should empower us as much as possible so that we can give back more. Finally, a team effort not only enhances each one's spirit but is more effective. Developing a team in this networked age should not be difficult. Work can start in any of the IITs and then it can be scaled up to other IITs, NITs etc.