Security personnel at Ryan International School, Gurgaon, India | Source: Getty Images
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CBI says it wasn’t the bus conductor who slit Pradyuman’s throat in Gurugram’s Ryan International murder case; it was a Class XI student of the school.

When in doubt, blame the “unwashed” masses.

Just when we had begun to get comfortable with the progress in the Pradyuman Thakur case after applying our carefully constructed, “usual suspect” template of who commits urban crimes – here comes a rude twist.

Now the CBI says it wasn’t the school bus conductor who slit seven-year-old Pradyuman’s throat in the washroom of the Ryan International School in Gurugram on 8 September. It was allegedly an 11th grade student from the same school, who “hoped that the act would help postpone exams and the parent-teacher meeting”, according to the CBI.

This comes weeks after the Gurugram police had arrested the bus conductor Ashok Kumar, and TV channels aired videos of him confessing that he had carried a knife into the washroom and killed the boy in panic. It appeared to be a crime that complied with all the urban prejudices of our outraging, privileged, and click-activism-friendly middle classes.

It confirmed our worst paranoia about the low-wage, blue-collar workers who live around us.

Right from former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to former Home Minister P. Chidambaram, we have always blamed migrants and porous borders for the rising crimes in the NCR region. Never mind that these so-called “migrants” are our gardeners, peons, gate-guards, cooks, drivers, cobblers, carpenters, construction workers and so on.

We want their cheap labour to subsidise our double-income lives. But we wish they would just make a quick, neat retreat into invisibility after they have finished our chores. Our collective hurry to blame Hemraj for the murder of Aarushi Talwar is just one recent example of how we are quick to pin the blame on the “worker” class for horrific crimes. (Leaked videos of other suspects’ “narco-tests” have been merrily run by TV channels. If he was a PLU or Bhadralok like us, we’d be outraging about the gross illegality of it all.)

But the police probe in the Ryan International case didn’t hold up for long. Kumar had not sexually assaulted Pradyuman after all. After Pradyuman’s father filed a petition in the Supreme Court, the police handed the case to the CBI.

Now, with the new development, we will be forced to face several inconvenient questions.

Just like the ones we faced nine years ago in Aarushi’s case: if it wasn’t the domestic worker, then who? Well-raised boys from (our kinds of) well-educated, middle class families can’t kill somebody just like that, many people are already saying.

This accused is a juvenile and will be produced before the Juvenile Justice Board – just like the other infamous juvenile – the youngest of the rapists in the Nirbhaya case. Remember the outrage it caused?

Will the age change the way we look at this new accused in the Ryan International murder case? Will people now demand sympathetic, compassionate treatment for him because he is under-age? Or should we regard this a “heinous” crime and treat him as an adult, like many of us demanded in Nirbhaya rapist’s case, and hang him, never mind his age? If he could be so heartless as to slit a little boy’s throat, why should his juvenility become his shield?

But wait, for that, we have to first determine his religion. Is he a Muslim?

This week, there was a disturbing article in the EPW magazine, which quoted from the Prison Statistics of India to show that there is an over-representation of minorities such as Muslims, Adivasis, and Dalits in our jails. This mirrored some of the data that regularly comes from the United States about the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans – five times more than Caucasians.

As we agitate loudly to clean up our history textbooks and blame our colonial past for labelling some communities as “criminal”, it is time we look at our own complicity and biases when we look at crime – as we outrage on television, social media, and online petition platforms.

The police makes mistakes, so do we. That happens everywhere. But we must also examine how quickly we swallow convenient narratives about the “other” amidst us; and how quickly we rush to argue for empathy or call to provide counselling (parental and professional) to the accused who are like us.

Our biases may not send someone to prison. Only a police investigation and the court will. But our biases can shape the public debate in ways that we cannot control.

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. how heinous crimes are reported and investigated…..irrespective who is guilty or innocent and what’s the role media played …mockery in the name of justice ….charges are framed to get promotions …poor show nothing…. collective nature NO CONSTITUTION NO LAW …LAW ABIDING AGENCIES ..School means schooling at the best???

  2. Maybe your story is right. But you shouldn’t have wrote this: ‘ is he muslim? ‘. That means you are showing that if there’s a crime there has to be a muslim, that isn’t necessary. And also that was for exam, so that could have been a hindu too ( I too am a student ) . Maybe it is true that most of the time there is a muslim behind the crime, but not all the muslims are bad, you are saying muslim that means you are addressing the whole community, but thats not true. And that doesn’t mean that I am a Muslim, I am a pure hindu, a bhraman, but I am not a bigot. No one has right to say that a particular community is bad. Even I know Muslim who are good.

  3. Framing an innocent bus conductor is an heinous crime committed by police officials. They should not be spared. DGP and the police commissioner are also equally responsible for implicating an innocent person, creating false evidence, misleading the whole justice delivery system. Behavior of policemen is worse than criminals sometimes.

  4. After Arushi and this, I’m beginning to doubt competence of the police in these jurisdictions. Police can make mistakes, is a rather flippant way of summarising botched investigations. Either follow a standard procedure of being discreet about suspects apprehended till you ascertain it’s them, or just buck up in investigating methods. Or both. Noone is any close to cracking the Arushi murder – a book is floating around conveniently blaming faceless, nameless suspects who fled to Nepal and we are not tracing them there either. Here too someone was apprehended before another schoolmate was found to be the new accused. Are police out there trained at all in investigations or do they literally just jump at the first suspect because they are under pressure to nab someone, anyone?

  5. I believe the writer was well meaning. She was using this particular case as a lens to illustrate the biases with which we as a society consume and comment on such stories. She was aiming at being sarcastic and emotionally charged at the same time. However the intended tone of the article gets mixed up in the some readers minds. Not entirely the writers fault, readers read with their biases just as writers write with theirs. Personally I could have done with a little less self righteousness.
    That saids the “unwashed masses and the justice system” could make for a very interesting long form exploration.

  6. Madam, Comment that “Is he a Muslim” was in extremely bad taste and shows your bias and bigotedness. Nirbhya most brutal rapist was a Juvenile Muslim yet he is the one who is out free in society incognito. Jail stats show that more muslim percentage is in jail than their presence in population. But does it show any bias against Muslims? only crooked biased left libtards will say yes without asking logically to first study for what crimes they are and whether convicted or undertrials. Muslims may be in prison for crime against a Muslim, a adivasi and a Dalit. The journo raped 2 years back in Mumbai was raped by 4 Muslims and 1 Hindu. As per you percentagewise 16 Hindus should have been caught and put in prison. BTW Indian prison has around 2.75 Lakh inmates and you cann’t judge a community treated unfairly from that.

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