Nithari's Children

The crime that came to light towards end December 2006 in Nithari village in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, has by now been revealed in its utter perversity. While the exact manner and motive remain to be validated, the gruesome realities of the crime have been established beyond speculation. Over a period of two years, in a bungalow barely a few metres away from a slum colony of largely migrant workers, several children and also women were brutally murdered, and their material and physical remains disposed of in a drain behind the house. The bungalow’s two residents who have been charged with the crime are now in police custody.

Mass murder, especially of children, evokes outrage. Offences against children pose no ambiguity, for children are indeed helpless, innocent, and ignorant. Nithari’s child victims, who belonged to poor migrant families, were moreover, doubly helpless as their parents’ poverty had rendered them anonymous: the local police officially denied them an existence and disregarded the many complaints made by parents whose children had gone missing. Condemning a crime is far easier than solving it, and there are several aspects of the crime that need piecing together if ever a cogent explanation is to be arrived at. And while criminologists, psychologists and scholars of urban studies have long engaged with what constitutes “psychopathic” crime (and the numbers involved in Nithari entail its categorisation as one), Nithari is also a story that exposes the hypocrisies and the darker inefficiencies within our systems of governance. As a slum of the poor, Nithari is not only without the most basic amenities expected in urban centres, but its migrant population lacked voting rights and therefore stood erased from public and political attention. Politicians who earlier ignored it have now descended on the population in hordes, arguably motivated by the fact that the crime, exposed barely months before elections to the Uttar Pradesh assembly, provides an apt opportunity to embarrass Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party-led government.

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