Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Girl burned in havan pyre. attempt to sacrifice?

There was a wide-spread idea among other nations that India is a land of myths. A land of snake-charmers, and the poor. But recent surge in our economy and the deep inroads made into the European psyche by our technological prowess made Europe sit and take notice. They started to change the perception of India from a backward country to surging economy. But had we changed indeed? Urbanites might be enjoying a meal at a ritzy restaurant; they wear top-class designer apparels and drive swanky cars. But gauging India just by this scenario is totally foolish.
The recent incident in Virar, a hamlet about 70 KM from Mumbai, in which a handicapped girl was thrown into fire to “cure” her and the village from chicken pox seriously dent our image of a developing country. For the uninitiated here is the story.
A couple of years back there was another incident, where a small child was sacrificed to gain a treasure hidden somewhere. This brutal homicide performed by a baba located in Mahim. There were numerous Babas available in that area. Police arrested the culprit and shunted out all others.
What is the moral of the story? We are in the space age. Human being is planning to set foot in Mars. Technology gives you everything at your fingertip. Still why these barbaric acts persist? Is it the lack of education and awareness? Is it for money? Or to settle personal scores? Does it have anything to do with religion?
Questions. Answerless?
The background
Tempi Pada village. Virar. About 70 Km from Mumbai. A fishermen hamlet. Jyotsna, the victim is a handicapped girl, all of 22, helps her family by selling vegetables in the market and earns Rs. 100 a day. She was engaged to a Dahanu boy and the marriage date was yet to fix. Recently there was a Chicken Pox outbreak and many of the people caught it. Jyotsna was of them. Anita Meher (21) aka “Devi” is a local god women and a faith healer. To contain the outbreak, the Meher family requested the villagers to stop eating non-vegetarian food. But this doesn’t checked the contagious disease and they arranged a prayer at Meher’s. All the infected asked to come to their house. The Mehers made the villagers to believe that they are carrying out prayers and poojas but they locked these people inside their home. Yet the disease was spreading like wildfire. So they have finally decided to conduct a havan (praying infront of a fire) to appease the angry gods.
The Incident
While the relatives of Jyotsna were told to leave the house since they are not infected. Around 10 PM, as the prayers were reaching a climax, Anita allegedly gave signal to Vijay Mangela (22), uncle of Anita, to push Jyotsna into the 6 feet deep pyre and he did just that. After a while, may be around 4 to 6 minutes, not sure though since the details are sketchy, she was pulled up from the inferno badly scalded. Then she was kept at the house for hours without any treatment. The next day, when her father came to take her home, they came to know about it and admitted her to the hospital. Later shifted to KEM where they diagnosed her with 67% burn.
First glance, it looks like an attempt to sacrifice the girl. But then why did they pull her out? There was no reported interference from anybody. She could have died there. So it wasn’t that. Then faith-healing? Why didn’t they tried it with anybody else? Family feud? There were reports indicating that the two families have a long-standing dispute. So did Devi tried to settle scores with her family? Looks probable at the moment. The police also probing the same angle. It is too early to hazard a guess. Keep watching this column. There will be more to it in the coming days.

There could be a thousand reasons for this atrocity. Whatever the reason, a poor girl lost her life. Well, almost. Her proposed marriage is in danger. Her life shattered. The livelihood of the family lost. A thousand dreams unfulfilled. This incident will definitely leave a big scar on her. Physically and mentally. There is a law preventing black magic but thousands of villages in Maharashtra still practice it. Who’s going to enforce the law?
The culprits should be brought to justice and not only should be punished, but they should compensate her. For her hospital expenses as her family keep worrying about it.
And for her life too. What could have been a beautiful life destroyed. The guilty must compensate for it.