Silent bystanders

Monday Musing

[ Nellie N Manpoong ]

“He pulled her by the hair and dragged her to the end of the road, and then he kicked her in the stomach.”

This is an incident narrated by someone who witnessed a physical assault by a husband on the wife on the streets of her residential colony recently. This probably is also the story of every other colony, every few days. The similarity in most such stories is that neighbours turn audiences and do not participate in the play, or maybe listen to it from the comfort of their homes, like a radio playing in the background.
Since no one is keen on intervening in anybody’s private lives even if there has been an abhorring action by the perpetrators, many victims are subjected to the same treatment every few days; mainly because there is no one to help them.
Those who wish to help are silenced by “concerned” neighbours who remind them that it is none of their business, or that those involved would take it personally and come for them. So the fear which wasn’t there to start with, houses itself, courtesy the concerned neighbour.
When reports of death by assault come to the fore, these very neighbours gossip amongst themselves on how the victim and perpetrator would argue and fight on several occasions. It certainly does not mean that every single one of your neighbours is not to be relied upon for help, but yes, many would prefer not being part of your chaos.
When a young Migrik Lomi was allegedly killed on July 31 last at her rented apartment in Lekhi village, the neighbours reportedly did not hear any commotion. The police or investigating authorities cannot pressurise anyone to come up and claim that they heard or saw something. Even if the neighbours did not hear anything, there must be substantial clues left by the attacker, and that is for the police to investigate.
Meanwhile, people came out to show their solidarity with the family and marched with candles in hand. However, the anger of the public is gradually subsiding and most will forget the crime like many other incidents, till a new crime is committed or a new life is lost. That is when people will take examples of Migrik Lomi and Ojing Taying since they are the freshest cases, to remind authorities of their incapability in capturing the killers.
Sadly enough, no one will stand up for someone on the streets when they are being attacked, especially when they are strangers. These audiences will find comfortable places behind doors and on terraces; they will call people in their houses to become one with the crowd and look on at the drama, and be glad that it isn’t their drama.
However, there are instances where people have stepped in to help and in return been accused of a non-existential blame. The victims are threatened to speak on behalf of the assailant and make scapegoat of the one person who came to help them.
Such victims will remain victims unless they break the cycle of abuse and come out openly about any form of crime. They will also lose that one shot at rescue if they continue to say, “Kuch nahi hua, bhaiya. Roz hota hai yeh sab!”
There are victims who keep repeating that it is easier said than done, as the abused is usually unemployed and if employed, there are children at stack. Then there are those who make use of the legal system or help of organisations to their benefit and rid themselves of abusive partners. Children are also saved from the life-long trauma of witnessing their parents trying to kill themselves.
Experts say that it does not take long for verbal abuse to turn into physical abuse and in some cases, death. Maybe it is time neighbours become part of the drama, and maybe it is time victims stop being victims.
“Last I heard, she’s been taken to the hospital. He blinded her in one eye.”