united in .. death

Two deaths were reported in the press yesterday: one on the front page and the other in an inside one. Both were heinous crimes. Both stemmed out of some unfathomable quirk of the mind.

In one a 'servant' had simply killed a young boy and an old relative of the house he had worked in for 5 years for a few pennies. In the other a woman had hit her girl servant with a laundry bat resulting in her death.

These two incidents could be dismissed with the usual fleeting moment of sympathy or stupefaction and that is what most would have done. However if one dwells on them for some time, one realises that these extreme actions could well stem out of the endemic mistrust that is more and more prevalent between what I often refer to as the two Indias.

Over the years I have witnessed the rising contempt with which people who work for you are treated. A series of sad incidents have resulted in campaigns aimed at branding all house workers as probable suspects to be verified by the police. Often this leads to sweeping remarks about the origins of such people as is heard in the: I never employ someone from Bihar, Bengal or whatever else, in many a coffee mornings.

I myself shudder when pwhy kids refer to their pals as Biharis and cannot hide my smile when I retort : I too am a Bihari!

Coming back to the two incidents one may let one's mind wander and imagine possible scenarios. In case 1 the 5 year old servant is said to have killed for money. Wonder whether he had asked for a loan and been rebuffed, or wonder whether he had been verbally abused or ill treated. In case 2 one can also ask one's self what the young girl did to provoke such rage; did she burn an expensive outfit, or leave stains on a garment she had washed. To take the matter further one can ask whether the reactions would have been the same if the two protagonists had belonged to the same side of the fence: had the daughter burnt the garment or the son asked for a loan?

Justice will have to take its course and I hope that it will be as severe in both cases. But what is more important is to try and see why such incidents occur and to try and find long term solutions that are equitable. Branding all of one side of the fence will just lead to widening an already cavernous gap between the two Indias. We need to build bridges of trust and understanding, to share a little of what one has in plenty as only then will our morrows be safe.

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