One day in April last year, 13-year-old Savitri was walking down a road with her mother in Dataganj district, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, carrying a flask of tea to her father, a laborer at a brick kiln, when five men pulled her into a moving jeep. One of them was from their village.
After Savitri’s father was told of her abduction, he hitchhiked to the police station; he couldn’t afford to take the bus. The officers set out to look for the man who had been recognized. They couldn’t find him, but they demolished his hut. Then they put the matter aside.… Seguir leyendo »
When 2-year-old Rutuja playfully tipped over a bottle, spilling water onto the mud floor of the family’s shack, her mother, Nageshwari Rathore, let loose a screech, lunging forward as though to slap the toddler. Ms. Rathore stopped herself, sinking her head into her hands. “You finished it,” she whispered.
The loss wrenched at the 25-year-old. That June morning she had stood in line in the scorching heat for over an hour to collect five liters of water. A government tanker rolls up once a day to the abandoned field where she now lives.
Located in Ghatkopar, a Mumbai suburb, the field functions as a relief camp for 350 families who have left their villages in rural Maharashtra because of a drought, the worst in 100 years.… Seguir leyendo »
In today’s India, secular liberals face a challenge: how to stay alive.
In August, 77-year-old scholar M. M. Kalburgi, an outspoken critic of Hindu idol worship, was gunned down on his own doorstep. In February, the communist leader Govind Pansare was killed near Mumbai. And in 2013, the activist Narendra Dabholkar was murdered for campaigning against religious superstitions.
These killings should be seen as the canary in the coal mine: Secular voices are being censored and others will follow.
While there have always been episodic attacks on free speech in India, this time feels different. The harassment is front-page news, but the government refuses to acknowledge it.… Seguir leyendo »
The mother, an animal herder in the western Indian state of Gujarat, watched in horror as her 3-year-old daughter was snatched from her. The kidnapper, an upper-caste woman from a nearby village who was unable to conceive, had been encouraged by her in-laws to help herself to a low-caste child. The mother pleaded with the village council and police for her daughter’s return. But both were dismissive. So she approached the unofficial Nari Adalat, or Women’s Court.
Five members of the court walked to the village where the girl was being held, and confronted her abductors. They refused to budge until the family let them search their house, where they found the girl hidden beneath a pile of mattresses in a musty storage room.… Seguir leyendo »
I lived for 24 years in New Delhi, a city where sexual harassment is as regular as mealtime. Every day, somewhere in the city, it crosses the line into rape.
As a teenager, I learned to protect myself. I never stood alone if I could help it, and I walked quickly, crossing my arms over my chest, refusing to make eye contact or smile. I cleaved through crowds shoulder-first, and avoided leaving the house after dark except in a private car. At an age when young women elsewhere were experimenting with daring new looks, I wore clothes that were two sizes too large.… Seguir leyendo »
Meena Devi is only 10 years old, but she’s the head of her household. She cooks, cleans and takes care of her 11-year-old brother, Sunil, while a 14-year-old brother, Anil, works at a faraway brick kiln in a neighboring state. The three have been orphans since their mother died of starvation three years ago. They have an aunt in their village, but the most she’s ever done is send over food to their mud hut.
In June, I wrote an article that appeared in The International Herald Tribune, documenting this family’s daily life in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar. E-mails started to pour in the next morning.… Seguir leyendo »
While investigating child labor in India last month for a book, I found myself in the northern state of Bihar, an established source of children for trafficking networks.
Here, alongside the expected stories of abduction, I heard of another unexpected and heartbreaking path to servitude. Children as young as 10 had begun to directly offer themselves to traffickers because they could no longer go hungry.
I met 14-year-old Arun Kumar, who told me of his experience.
Kumar lives with his uncle and two younger siblings in Amni village, a day’s journey by bus from Patna, the Bihar state capital.
Two days before we met, Kumar had been returned home by a local nonprofit organization, supported by Save the Children, from a rice mill in the state of Haryana, where he had been working 18-hour days, seven days a week.… Seguir leyendo »
In Delhi where I grew up I knew a girl who carried a meat knife. Tired of daily molestations, she used to say that the next stranger who fondled her, in the bus, or on the street as he brushed past, would feel it.
I didn’t carry a knife, but I wore my sister’s baggy salwar kameezes. This way, I told myself, men wouldn’t stare and they wouldn’t touch. When I was 24 years old, I left Delhi for Edinburgh to study for a master’s degree. After I returned to India I found that I no longer wanted to dress like someone else, and I still didn’t want to carry a knife.… Seguir leyendo »