A Living Nightmare
For a nine-year-old girl, life is still blooming in all its glory. Going to school, meeting new friends and getting done with her homework every day is probably one of the biggest obligations of her being. She is still amused by the little things in life and naively dreams of an existence filled with a bed of roses. But for Saptarshi the joy of being a carefree child has been cruelly suspended.
Earlier last month, a family dispute led to the murder of Advocate Dilruba Huq Papiya, a human rights activist and an NGO official, in Barisal. She was buried at the Barisal Muslim Graveyard. According to news reports, Papiya had marks of injury and torture on her dead body. Evidence says that the murder was allegedly committed by her husband Tuhin, who is under arrest along with his 44-year-old sister, Israt Jahan Swapna.
As worse as it can get, 9-year-old Saptarshi witnessed her mother being murdered right in front of her eyes. It is difficult to imagine the child's state of mind, when she could see her mother screaming in pain because of the torture inflicted upon her by the child's father and eventually silencing her to death.
Last week, however, a new problem had risen when it could not be decided exactly where to keep Saptarshi safe, being a witness to the murder. Naturally, slain Papiya's mother Manzila Khatun applied to the court to allow her to take Papiya away from Mamataz Begum, her paternal grandmother's house, where she had grown up. Manzila Khatun claimed that no doubt the child's life would be in danger if she were to live in the same house where she had witnessed her mother's murder and that too with the murderer's family.
The whole of last week, Saptarshi had to move back and forth from her home to court and then finally end up in a government 'safe home', thus violating the court order. According to the authorities, it was obviously not safe for the child to stay with either sides of her family, since she faced danger either ways.
However, since the step was taken against court orders, on November 30, Saptarshi was handed over to her paternal grandmother. "Saptarshi has been living here since childhood," Mamataz said. "If she is forced to live with her maternal grandmother or in a safe home, it will definitely cause severe mental pressure and give rise to new problems for the child." What one must wonder is how Saptarshi is expected to testify against her own father while staying with her paternal grandmother.
People are wondering, though, as to how safe Saptarshi really is. In a country where innocents are dying in the name of religion and for the good of mankind, a mere child like Saptarshi would probably not make much of an impact on the policy makers. Not only has this put a scar on her innocent childhood, this is just another story of every other woman screaming for help within.
According to author Stacia Tauscher, "we worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today." Saptarshi's existence now is haunted by her mother's mutilated screams and her father's alleged crime. One can only hope that she may stay safe and come out of this horrible nightmare.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005