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On the 16th Dec 2012, two people were in a state of emergency. Both had been violently beaten, and one was horrifically gang raped. The story has flashed through every news portal in the world. While there has been shock, horror and demands for justice, we have not examined the manner in which the population around the two victims behaved that night. Many of us would expect passersby to do their best to help, but is this too great an expectation?
The first hand witness testimony of the harrowing events from the surviving victim hit the headlines recently. The full narrative can be read on Zee News. Not only were the authorities unsympathetic and lax, but the people around New Delhi also appeared to turn a blind eye. One aspect strikes me about this narrative - two people were dying and even then they faced hardship, coldness, unhelpful behaviour, a distinct lack of empathy and no kindness. The night can only be described as one of horror.
These are some of the haunting statements from the survivor of this ordeal:
“After throwing us off the bus, they tried to mow us down but I saved my friend by pulling her away in the nick of time. We were without clothes. We tried to stop passersby. Several auto rickshaws, cars and bikes slowed down but none stopped for about 25 minutes. Then, someone on patrolling, stopped and called the police,”
“Nobody from the public helped us. People were probably afraid that if they helped us, they would become witnesses to the crime and would be asked to come to the police station and court,”
He said that no one came to their help after they were thrown off the bus by the six accused. Even after the police arrived, it took the cops over two hours to take them to hospital.
He said nobody, including the police, gave them clothes or called an ambulance. “They were just watching us,” he said, adding that after repeated requests, someone gave him a part of a bed sheet to cover his friend.
The victim’s friend said that he carried his badly injured friend to the PCR van on his own as “the policemen didn’t help us because my friend girl was bleeding profusely and they were probably worried about their clothes”.
“Nobody from the public helped us. People were probably afraid that if they helped us, they would become witnesses to the crime and would be asked to come to the police station and court,” he told the channel.
“Even at the hospital, we were made to wait and I had to literally beg for clothes. I asked one ‘safai karamchari’ to give me some clothes or curtains and he asked me to wait. But the clothes never came. I then borrowed a stranger’s mobile and called my relatives, but just told them that I had met with an accident. My treatment started only after my relatives came,”he said.
Could some basic help from a Good Samaritan during these crucial periods of time have saved a life? Has urban modern life made the city people heartless and selfish? Those who did not stop to help should ask themselves this – if they were in the same predicament, how would they feel if passersby did not stop to assist? How would they feel if their mother, sister or wife was raped, beaten and left for dead? Would they accept this disgraceful unkind treatment from ordinary folk? People forget that kindness is free. They also forget that each and every one of us could meet with this fate in a series of unfortunate events.
It is our duty has humans to help each other. It is this quality that goes to the heart of humanity and decency. Courage, kindness and character are the qualities that define us as human beings. It is as if society has become materialistic, only concerned for their own welfare and no one else's. Kindness is absent, erased or is just an alien concept in a suburban environment. Perhaps people are so pre-occupied with self preservation and self love that they have forgotten what humanity means. The kind of society created is demonstrated during times of need. It is a sad fact of life that in the streets of New Delhi, if you find yourself in trouble, or if you are on the verge of death, very few will come to your assistance.
It is interesting to see that even animals have kindness in their hearts – enough to assist those in trouble. This video for instance demonstrates how one dog risked his life to save his friend by running across a motorway. Perhaps Plato was right when he said “A dog has the soul of a philosopher.” There are numerous tales of animals rescuing others from troubled waters. If a random act of kindness can be performed by an animal, why is it so difficult for us as human beings?
Modern life has clearly reduced many of us into creatures without any basic empathy for the suffering of others. Each act has to be balanced on a sheet of self advantage or disadvantage. Gone are the days where people helped others for the sake of humanity, without considering the risk/benefit to one's self. It is worth noting this quote by the poet Khalil Gibran “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution”. As a society, have we regressed to becoming technology obsessed, self contained, stone hearted people? If so, what is the purpose of our lives?
New Delhi is a city that never sleeps. One person is dead. How many more people are dead because passersby did not assist or turned a blind eye? Instead of showering endless sympathy on the case, it is important to ask ourselves, how society starts to develop a conscience for the welfare of others.
Do those who turned a blind eye, who refused to lend a hand of support, who walked by without a thought, have a conscience now? It is vital for society to do some soul searching, to ask themselves, how can individual behaviour change from a largely self-centred approach to one that has the qualities of humanity.
We live our lives rushing around building our castles, obsessing over the next Smartphone creation, the next Face book update, the next romantic liaison, the next Bollywood film, the next Sony Bravia TV. Have we left behind the art of being a human being? We must never forget that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi said the following:
“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”
Kindness is free and should be given generously at all times. As "Each of us must be the change agent we want to see in the world"
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