Friday, April 08, 2005

Taking Sides

I've debated often, with my own self too, the question of journalism overreaching itself and stepping into an activist role. After all, it means taking sides, doesn't it? And if I take sides... wither objectivity?

This story has taught me to shut up and take sides - the victim's side.

In Sidhi district, in Madhya Pradesh, a couple of years ago, a young (and, need I add, poor) woman was raped. She got pregnant, but the sixth-month-old foetus, somehow (fuzzy details about this), got aborted.
At the district hospital, the staff took the foetus, put it in a plastic bag and hung it at the foot of the mother's bed. And here, the corpse stayed, for two whole days!

When a women's rights activist came to visit the rape victim, the latter began to plead that the baby be given a decent burial, at least. The activist saw the plastic bag with the foetus in it, still hanging by the bedside, and immediately moved into action. But nobody at the hospital did a thing until the press was summoned.

When two local camera crews turned up, the chief doc (don't know his exact designation) panicked. Realizing that the situation was out of hand, he called an emergency meeting of all the doctors and nurses at the hospital and began to lamblast the whole lot - seeking accountability, pinning down blame...

Finally, it was decided that the child would be removed from the bedside and the last rites would be performed. However, the activist pointed out the burial couldn't happen until some samples of blood or hair/nails were preserved, to enable a DNA test to be performed later. This was important evidence to establish the rape.

The doctors, however, refused to take samples. There was no facility to perform the DNA test at the hospital. It turned into an awkward situation, with the hospital staff now wanting to get rid of the foetus (and the evidence) as soon as possible.

Finally, the baby - still in sealed plastic - was left outside the hospital premises, in the open air, with the victim's father standing guard, to ensure that a wild animal didn't carry it away.

It wasn't until the press intervened - asking questions, bullying and cajoling the doctors - that a post-mortem was performed and DNA samples collected. Obtaining a copy of the post-mortem report was a whole new battle. Also, one partially fought by the press.

As for me, all I can feel for those camera crews, those print reporters and those activists is gratitude - for working together, and for knowing that they were both on the same side.

2 comments:

livinghigh said...

this blog has a way of shocking you - always for the best! I can't imagine the agony of living thru the experience of this and the earlier post. And yet, as much as I wud like to be cliched and blame it all on a 'poor person' upbringing, i know I can't do that.

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