Beyond the cities in India with all its glittery and fanfare; the towering skyscrapers with their tinted-glasses, are the not so prominent, yet visible and numerous slums*. As a result of our age-old caste system, people hailing from these regions have often been marginalized and termed as ‘Untouchables’ ,since many of them hail from lower most communities in the caste system.
The caste system, for e.g dictates that a manual scavenger whose profession is intrinsically linked to his caste (which can’t be changed ) at birth can never become a priest in a temple and has to remain a scavenger all his/her life with no freedom to choose any other profession.
Thanks to the efforts of many social reformers and educators, many of them have risen above their communal barriers, breaking all stereotypes and have become prominent citizens of our nation. The greatest among them being Dr. BR Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Constitution of India.
Karwandiya is one such slum in the Rohtas district of Bihar, a place known for its rampant prostitution; this place is considered to be one of the oldest red light district of Bihar. I have personally visited this place along with a team of social workers in the year 2013,we were however barred from interacting with the people there. I was heartbroken to hear that children born here do not know who their fathers are. The women often get pregnant due to unprotected sex as their clients refuse to use any contraceptives; As the result, children here grow up with no father to care for them or protect. Due to some vested interests who want these women to stay this way they have no education ,financial support or jobs as no one is willing to employ women from such places , the women here are forced to remain prostitutes, against their own will .
I was even more heart-broken and shocked, when I learnt that the girls are forced into prostitution, as soon as they reach puberty (in some cases even before that) and the boys become pimps to their own sisters!
What was even tragic was the fact that there are vested interests who prevent any aid or reformation work from reaching these people since they make huge money from exploiting these women!
Despite the political pressure, thankfully a group of social workers have been reaching out to these people, educating the children and training the women on life skills so that they are not forced to go back to prostitution.
Sukhwinder (name changed) was one such person, hailing from this region. He was supported by a total stranger (a donor from Compassion International), who was not in any way related to him. There were absolutely no conditions for him to receive their support.
If one would ask these often unsung donors, as to why they would want to support an Indian boy who can’t pay back in return; they would simply say that this is what their faith is all about:
“To care for the poor, the destitute , the orphans and the widows”
The donors don’t expect anything in return, but only that they remember the goodness they received ,be grateful and do the same to others.
To me, they’re the Samaritans of the twenty first century.
For many children like Sukhwinder, such care &love is quite a mystery, when people from their own community treat them with disdain!.
Why would anyone help a total stranger when they can give nothing in return? These donors treated these kids as their own children, crying with them in their pain and rejoicing in their successes.
When their own people and community abuse them and treat them like scum why would someone show empathy and love?
As he grew up to be a responsible young man, this unconditional love intrigued him and led him to embrace the faith of his loving foster parents, who in spite of being thousands of miles away from him, loved and embraced him as their own son; However, they would have still shown him the same love and care, had he not embraced their faith.
As a matter of fact, people like Sukhwinder often become atheists without any real attachment to religion, as a result of the abuse they encounter from the upper castes.
If someone is going to show us unconditional care and love, when we have nothing to give in return nor haven’t done anything to deserve it, will we not pause and think as to why would they do it?
Sukhwinder is now a young man, doing very well in the city of Delhi, away from the shackles of poverty and abuse. Many like him from the Karwandiya region, have broken stereotypes and are living respectable lives as citizens of our great nation.
But thanks to the efforts of our present government, children like Sukhwinder are no longer supported. Compassion India, which has been supporting 145,000 children has been shut down since March 15, 2017.
I know at least a couple of my own friends who were supported by Compassion, as their parents are social workers on meager salary with no means to finance their kids’ education.
I write this article with a heavy heart, wondering where we are headed as a community. We live in a time, where polarization is done in the name of national identity; hatred is justified in the guise of patriotism.
Isn’t ‘LOVE’ supposed to trump ‘HATRED’?
I know many will disagree on this, I am willing to dialogue with anyone willing to listen with an open mind.
Thank you for reading patiently
Andrew Benedict J
*Slums -a thickly populated, run-down, squalid part of a city, inhabited by poor people.