It is a busy public intersection in Delhi. All around are marketplaces, shops and big shopping malls. And there are street food vendors of all hues dotting the stretches on all sides.
The traffic red light at this public intersection is quite a busy one with long queues of vehicles on each side waiting for the signal to turn green. Throngs of people can be seen waiting for buses, auto-rickshaws and other modes of public transportation at every road diverting from that intersection. And in addition to all this, a regular flux of people keeps coming in and going out of the Delhi Metro station which is exactly above this intersection (Delhi Metro is an intra-city public transpiration system connecting to suburbs of Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad).
As I stepped out of the Delhi Metro station, I saw a street food vendor badly pounding a handicapped man – in that hubbub of people – and no one was coming forward. In fact, a passerby like me tried to intervene and was meted with the same treatment. Well, the way he was thrashing that guy, with his both polio-affected legs, the incident first shocked me.
Yes, I have seen much more human brutality than this, but such things always shock me. But I knew I didn’t have much time and I was about to intervene when I saw this police patrol vehicle. By this time, I had clearly come to know that the vendor was drunk and the handicapped guy was a beggar.
So, here was this guy, a street food vendor and he was drunk, beating a handicapped person like hell and extending the same treatment to the other guy who tried to intervene, and there were people all around – most of them able-bodied who could easily take on that guy but were desisting from intervening. Probably, they all would be having their own reasons and reasoning.
Anyway, after my initial shock, my priority was to save this man because whatever was happening was grotesque, grossly inhuman and could never be justified in any possible way and then I saw this police vehicle. Well, being a journalist, I am comfortable in approaching police and whenever I do so, I am quite rigid and straight in my dealings with them.
That police vehicle was steps away under the shadow of Delhi Metro stairs and was not directly visible from the spot where this guy was being badly beaten by a drunken ruffian.
I spontaneously approached the police and they were there in no time. When a policeman from the patrol vehicle reached there, the street vendor was still exercising his meek bravado on a man who needed society’s care and support. As soon as he saw police, as normally happens, he changed his track. He started verbally abusing the guy of harassing him daily and trying to show nothing beyond that had happened. Probably, he thought no one would come forward to tell what he did – even if the handicapped guy had his shirt ripped apart and his ears had a shade of blood – probably (and rightly) he thought the police would not get bothered about a beggar.
Well, I was in no mood to let this happen. I could never have allowed this blasphemy. As soon as we reached the spot, I grabbed the vendor and pushed him away from the handicapped fellow. Then, I had some pretty tough and rough words for the policeman as well for this ruffian – for the police to do something – and for the vendor to dislodge him from his drunken tyranny.
I knew my words were meaningless for a drunken fellow of that mindset but it did make other people to join me in protesting the incident – who, till now, mere just mute spectators. I was quite agitated, and well, we all should be, in such circumstances. And it took a while for me to calm down, but not before the vendor had some ‘unofficial treatment the Indian police way’ and he was made to shell out money for treatment and clothes of the handicapped fellow. Meanwhile, another person came forward with a burger and reassuring words for him.
The final outcome was like this. The vendor would pay for rickshaw and doctor’s fee, in addition to what he had already given earlier, and another vendor there assured that he would ensure that nothing untoward happens after the episode. The policeman also said that he would keep a tight vigil and would inform the ‘beat police constables’ to keep a tab on the vendor.
While leaving, I warned the policeman and the vendors there I would come there again tomorrow to check on what I was promised.
I know we live in a society where there cannot be permanent solutions to such anomalies. What best you can do is to remain humane in your sphere of life and be true to the principles of humanity. Yes, it is very difficult, but once internalized, like an incident had done it with me a long ago, it becomes inseparable part of you.
You don’t need to become a reformer or an activist for doing so. Just a case by case approach would do. What we need to do is to remain honest in each case and to remain honest with what we see – because we, practically, cannot go into the past and the future of every such incident – or in fact, in almost of them.
When I was leaving, a man came and told us that whatever happened to this handicapped fellow was justified. He said the fellow begged in this entire area and would regularly engage in confrontation with society guards while under influence of alcohol.
That may be true but that doesn’t allow the vendor (or someone else) to beat this man. What this fellow did or what he does may be entirely wrong but justifying ‘beating him to pulp’ is equally inhuman. We have countless men and women in our society who need the state’s help for their rehabilitation – the help that never comes.
We can do a lot by being honest to them and to us – helping them whenever and wherever we can.
And thankfully, I don’t think I am doing something extraordinary by doing so. It is the basic minimum that we all need to do to express our gratitude for our existence here.
And one should always go ahead of this ‘basic minimum’.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/