Thursday, 28 January 2010

On the run

Mr. Shrishti is on the run.

His wife is 5 months pregnant, but he has not been home for 2 months now.

Apparently a murder was committed and 4 suspects are being searched for by the local police. Two suspects have been nabbed. Two are at large.

Since the cops can't find the 2 missing men - they have started after Mr. Shrishti's brother. The brother bolted to their anscestral village. And now it is Mr. Shrishti's turn.

Mr. Shrishti washes cars for a living. He is faithful and good at this. He continues to do this work. Only he is hiding. He sleeps in a room at the base of one of the appartment buildings where the cars are parked. This is his home for the last 2 months now.

We met Mr. Shrishti yesterday. He came with his wife to the JSK Positive Friends meeting.

In addition to his current troubles - Mr. and Mrs. Shrishti are both HIV positive - which is how we got to know them in the first place.

Their meeting yesterday was a small respite from the burdens that these last months have placed on them. Sheba prayed and talked with them. They have no clear answers - the closest they have come is to shift their room (rented of course) to a new neighbourhood and hope that the 2 million other residents of Thane will shield them from the police.

Our constitution guarantees the right to individual liberty. We celebrated 60 years of our Indian Republic earlier this week. 60 years of the constitution being operational.

Its a bitter anniversary for Mr. Shrishti. Though his right to freedom is enshrined - the reality of his situation says otherwise. Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) specifically states that: "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law."

The procedure that actually takes place when a person is hauled up to the lock-up, when a person is thrown into prison as an undertrial, when a person's family is hounded by the cops is very different matter. We are grateful for the police force - but the grim reality that the poor face is just that - grim. The rich have their lawyers - who are able to spring them out even before they are arrested ('anticipatory bail') - but for Mr. Shrishti - and many, many others like him, the police are people to be feared.

Tonight, as I write this, he is sleeping in that small room. Mr. Shrishti is in exile - away from his 5 month-pregnant wife - and their 2 year old son.

On the run. In hiding. 300 meters away from his family. Unable to meet them and live as he should. One of the many silent, hidden people who do not stride the national consciousness, who do not prick the national conscience.

We still have a lot of work to do in our dear nation.

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