Bitter Chocolate [en]

Rishikesh, 26 August 01

I’ve finished reading another disturbing book. After the concentration camps of World War II and Partition, here comes Bitter Chocolate by Pinki Virani – a study on Child Sexual Abuse in India.

One out of four boys. Four out of ten girls. In all social classes, from lower to upper. By aggressors of same or different sex. The rare comlaints filed take years to reach court. More often than not, they are dismissed for lack of conclusive evidence.

My new “tagline” for India is The Country of Red Tape. Related, this example of Indian logic, excerped from Pinki Virani’s book.

A young boy is abused in his school by a meditation summer class teacher. The parents refuse to report the case to the police. Another parent, a lawyer, alarmed by the fact that this same teacher has been invited to give classes in his son’s own school, decides to write to the police commissioner, detailing the whole incident.

On 25 October 1999, Raju Zunzarrao Moray gets a visitor from the police station near his residence.

The police officer tells him, ‘Your complaint to the police commissioner has come to us. We were well aware of the incident but no one came forward to register it as a case. This is the first written complaint on the matter, so you are our First Informant. Therefore, we will have to start our investigations with you first.’

All right, is Raju Moray’s reaction, but then what.

‘After investigating you, we will investigate everyone else.’

‘Okay,’ says Raju Moray, ‘but just remember that I was not an eyewitness to even the boy who came home hurt. You need to speak with the boy’s family.’

‘We will.’

A doubt flickers in Raju Moray’s mind. ‘By now the boy has gone back to Pune. Suppose his family here says nothing of the sort happened.’

‘Then it will be assumed that you have made a false complaint.’

‘What absolute nonsense!’

‘Not nonsense; it is a serious matter to make a false complaint.’

‘But it is not a false complaint.’

‘If you cannot prove it, it is; also, then you have no business to unnecessarily clutter up our files and cause us unnecessary hardship.’

Raju Moray re-starts the conversation, ‘Listen, let us assume—correctly, since I know what they have decided—that the boy’s grandfather says that there was no incident. Then what?’

‘Then we will call you to the police station to question you on why you filed a false complaint.’

‘But it is not… oh all right, then what happens?’

‘Then we will call you, and we will call you again for questioning, as and when the need arises.’

‘I have to go to court you know, I have to be available for my clients and my practise. You should at least tell me when you would call me, I cannot come in the mornings, I can after court during the evenings. And, obvioulsy, I see no reason to come every day to simply sit in the police station.’

‘Then it is better you write a letter saying you are withdrawing your complaint so that we can close the file.’

‘But you have not even opened a case till now because no case has been filed. Where is the question of closing an un-opened file?’

‘These are technical matters; better you just say in a letter you are withdrawing your complaint.’

Please do read this very sensible book. Awareness is what is needed first – and your awareness could make the difference for someone. Whether or not you are in India or Indian.

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