December 06, 2005

Pieces of the future

Today, I remember two kids. Today.

On October 1 of 1993, Polly Klaas called two friends over to spend the night at her home in Petaluma, California. They played in Polly's room, as kids do, and then got ready for bed. Her mother had fallen asleep in the adjacent bedroom. She had closed the door and turned on her airconditioner, and so could not hear anything from Polly's room. Not that she expected anything much to happen. How much trouble could three 12 year old girls get into on an autumn evening in a pleasant California town?

A lot, it turns out. A tall, muscular man suddenly entered the girls' room through the window. He threatened the girls with a weapon and frightened them into silence. He gagged and tied up Polly's two friends. He grabbed Polly and vanished through the window with her.

Over the next few weeks, Polly Klass became a household name across America. Millions of posters with her picture were distributed and plastered on shop windows, noticeboards and trees. Some reached as far as Japan. Appeals went out -- on television, through the newspapers and over the Internet -- imploring her kidnapper to release her. Thousands of worried and outraged Californians joined the search for her, tramping tirelessly through streets and fields, never losing hope. Her grandfather made a dramatic appearance on television, speaking of his conviction that his achingly pretty granddaughter was alive somewhere and would return to him. "I can feel that Polly power!", he said.

All in vain. Two months later, the police arrested Polly's kidnapper, Richard Allen Davis. He confessed to the police that he had killed Polly soon after taking her from her home, and directed them to where he had buried her body. A nation plunged into bewildered grief; even hardened California police officers broke down and wept.

Davis's trial began on February 5, 1996. Later that year, he was sentenced to death. He is on Death Row in San Quentin, California.

On January 11, 1993, Irfan, called Raju by his family, was walking home in Dharavi. As I wrote here, Raju's father, Samiullah, had a job at the bakery. Just months earlier, he had asked Raju, his only son, to join him in Dharavi from their UP village. While he searched for a regular job in Bombay, Raju worked at the bakery too, running errands and doing odd jobs.

That day was no different than the several weeks before and after. Violence raged in the city: mobs looted, burned and slaughtered ordinary men, women and kids. Bakeries were special targets. In Dharavi that night, a mob attacked and destroyed the one where Samiullah and Raju worked. Samiullah had gone home earlier; at night, when he must have thought it was safe, Raju set off through the slum. Homeward bound.

He never reached home. Several men gathered around the 14-year-old boy. Hacked him into pieces.

It is nearly 13 years since Raju died. There has been no investigation into his murder. His killers have not been arrested, nor even identified. In fact, nothing has happened in all these years to bring those men to justice. Nor is there any sign that that will ever happen. Nor is there any sign that there will be justice for any of the nearly one thousand murders in Bombay in those weeks.

Children are the future of our country, of our world. Heard that, have you? Well, in California, Richard Allen Davis is paying the price for murdering Polly Klaas, a small part of that future. In Bombay, Raju's killers are paying no price at all. Far from facing justice, they know that they have escaped it.

Petaluma has today returned to some calm, some normalcy. So, we think, has Bombay. But in Bombay, the men who sliced Raju to bits are out there, unpunished and unrepentant. Might have been them, crushed up against you in the train this morning.


wise donkey said...

whats worse than them being unpunished and unrepentant, is that to many what they did is justified.

Gary said...

After the Mumbai riots, I have come across such articles many times. My heart bleeds for the many pollys and rajus who shared such a fate.
But apart from the sympathy that I feel, there is also a burning anger in me, only if i could get my hands on the culprits...but than such anger scares me too...what if a fanatic [they dont have caste] is to read this article....would he be so angry as to again rip someone apart....would history repeat itself and if it does who is to blame....would the media/journalists/authors/activist accept the blame or simply say they were highlighting certain issues that "plague" our society.
A mob in california would comprise of 5-10 persons whose faces can be recognised in a small population and would be easy to get them to justice but here the mob would be in hundreds....
Think about it Dilip....

Dilip D'Souza said...

WiseD, that's just the thing that's so depressing about this. Thanks for saying it.

Gaurang, while I understand what you're getting at, I believe the far greater threat is from leaving terrible crimes unpunished.

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