Two Dylan songs struck a chord in me when I was a young and someone remained with me all through they years well into my old age. That was way back in the early sixties.
The Nithari tragedy brought them back as it seemed as if they had been written yesterday:
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
Come senators, congressmen, please head the call
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he that has stalled
The battle outside ragging will soon
shake your windows rattle your hall
For the times, they are a changing
and yet 44 years have passed and everything seems unchanged, seems there have not been sufficient deaths and the halls have not been rattled loud enough.
Yesterday a debate on television addressed the Nithari serial killings and related issues. A retired cop, an eminent lawyer and two political opponents engaged in a perfectly orchestrated blame game. Among the topics discussed was the issue of different rules for different people based on which side of the fence they happen to belong to.
Why debate on it when a mere glance at the audience proved that point beyond doubt. A group of people from Nithari had been invited and sat on one side, away from the rest the invisible and impregnable divide sticking out like a sore thumb.
Oh yes they debated and all agreed upon the fact that the poor had a raw deal, that cops humiliate and snubbed them, that things were not right and had to be changed. And with the necessary drama options were lobbed: change laws, amend acts, remake the world..
In the meantime more children will disappear, be abused and killed. More poor will have their rights trampled and life will go on without change. The poor will go back to their world as they have to carry surviving and the rich will find something else to debate upon.
The culprit in the NOIDA or the Ghaziabad tragedies is not the paedophile or the individual sick mind. Such people have existed since time immemorial and will always do. Come to think of it the chemicals of a brain can go wrong once in a while. Of course they need to be punished and put away.
The problem is far deeper and the responsibility lies within each one of us and not in finding something or someone to blame: be it the party in power or age old social ills. The true culprit is civil society who did not react at the appropriate moment. The true culprit is each one of us who feels that such things cannot happen to us and do not concern us. We all know how we walk away from a accident site for fear of getting involved with the police, how easily we dip in our pockets to break that tiny law that is irksome, how we throw names left, right and centre to slip out of the system in place, how we never find the time to help another, how get rid off the disturbing beggar by throwing a few coins but never dare look into his eyes, in a word how we each and every day reinforce the barriers between them and us.
We revel living in our world not realising how fragile it is. Our so called sense of safety depends on the simple fact that those on the other side have not found their voice but the day is not far when a tiny incident will unleash a force we will not be able to contain.
Every moment brings us closer to that day. In our rush to acquire material goals we are eroding the very foundation of our lives. The debate on whether there are different rules is not an intellectual one, it has to strike a chord in our very spirit and make us change our attitudes and ways. The responsibility for the NOIDA killings lies in each and every one of us and true healing will only begin when we have the moral courage to accept that.
The times they are changing and answer is blowing in the wind.