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The stab of fame

 

Killing someone seems perfectly reasonable for young indians. Why?
RAHUL PANDITA | Issue Dated: January 14, 2007
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The stab of fame It is unlikely that Pappu Upadhyaya would have ever heard the above lines. But today, nobody would be a more fi rm believer in these lines than him. Aft er all, a man, who Pappu had always thought of as an angel, has turned out to be India’s most infamous evil man. It couldn’t have been more ironical that Pappu, a local panwallah in Noida, would hear about the evil deeds of Moninder Singh Pandher on the television set gift ed to him by none other than Pandher himself.

Pappu will, perhaps, never come to terms with what he heard on the television. But a truth, which is almost worldknown now, would not care about the sentiments of a shopkeeper. And yet, it is hard to believe that someone, who studied at the country’s premier educational institutes, and, who, according to his relatives, had even cleared the Civil Services examination, would kill young children, have sex with their corpses and then dump them in a drain aft er cutting them into pieces.

As the police continue to fi sh out bones of hapless victims of Noida businessman Pandher and his aide Surendra, there are many skeletons that are waiting to tumble out of cupboards – both literal and proverbial. With the police further probing into the Noida skeleton case, it is becoming clear that there is much more to case than what meets the eye. What prompts people like Pandher to commit such ghastly acts? Would it be right to categorise it just as a case of a killer psychopath preying on his victims? Or is there something missing from the picture?

The stab of fame Yes, say psychologists and social scientists. Th ey blame what they term as turbo-consumerism for such cases, especially those involving teenagers. As India wakes up to easy money, many believe that unbridled materialistic desire coupled with numerous peekaboos into the new world are leading people to crime. It is as if India has slipped into a warp, which would require more Freudian skills than those of Swami Ramdev to be understood.

It was for purchasing a mobile phone and celebrating New Year that led three Chennai juveniles to kidnap and kill 11- year-old Aravind. Th e three teenagers befriended Aravind while playing cricket in their locality and later decided to kidnap him for ransom money. As he was being led to their hideout, the boy started crying. When he could not be silenced, the trio hit him repeatedly with a brick and then gagged him till he lay motionless. Inspired by a scene from a fi lm, the three teenagers had sprinkled chilli powder near the scene of crime to fool the sniff er dogs.

“Th is is very much a part of the new culture,” says psychologist Neelima Pandey. “Th e old Indian value system is fast eroding. Insecurity and need for more money has created gaping holes in our moral fabric and this is just the beginning,” Pandey says, while referring to the Chennai case. So, what is really happening? According to sociologists, this: More and more members of society in urban and semi-urban areas are getting exposed to a virtual world created by television, cinema and Internet. Th is is the best world where megapixel mobile phones have replaced notebooks. Instead of U-special buses, there are cruise bikes. College canteen is passé. It has to be cafes and lounges, and it is. It is a world where diamonds are a girl’s best friend; where she no longer thinks that a greeting card would suffi ce. Belonging to this world is the ‘in thing.’ It would almost seem, sociologists say, as if not belonging to this world means one has no right to exist.

“Th ere is a sense of adventurism among young people. Due to hectic schedules of parents, there is a passive negligence of children, more so in metros like Delhi. Th ey are exposed to uncensored images that inspire them to experiment. Th ey think that money can give them the required high, which leads some of them to crime,” says Dr. Sandeep Vohra, a noted psychiatrist.

A 15-year-old boy from Lucknow recently faked his own kidnapping because he wanted money to buy a mobile phone. Sachin had been feeling embarrassed about every one in his school possessing a mobile phone except him. He had his eyes set upon a Nokia handset costing Rs 30,000. One day, aft er he left home for school, he decided not to come back. Instead, he called his home, using the hanky-overthe- mouthpiece technique, and made the demand for money to his father. He was caught from Kanpur, aft er the police tracked down the number. He later told the police that his friends in the school had latest motorcycles and mobiles and that he was embarrassed in front of the girls.

Th e silver lining in Sachin’s case was that at least he set up a ruse for his own kidnapping. Otherwise, in most of such cases, the target happens to be young children. Experts believe that children become targets because they can be easily overpowered either for money or sexual gratifi cation. Th is view is corroborated by statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). According to the NCRB, there has been a 3.8% increase in criminal cases against children in 2005, as compared to 2004. Th e cases of child rape marked an alarming increase of 13.7% in 2005 as compared to the 3,542 cases in 2004. “We are facing the onslaught of fast age – fast food, fast fame and success. Parents are caught in a rat race and the children have to only follow them. But it comes at a cost and that cost is, at times, mental health,” says Dr. Vohra.

What may be diff erent in Pandher’s case, experts say, is that he thought since he has money, he will get away with anything. What is worrying is that more and more youngsters seem to believe that if they have money, they will get away with anything. And to get that money, they are willing to do anything.

The stab of fame The national capital region: killer’s delight?

Delhi is surrounded by two fast growing urban areas, Gurgaon and Noida, which have become the new face of upwardly-mobile India. But over the past few months, these areas have also become synonymous with some horrifi c crimes. People were yet to come to terms with the Gurgaon cab killers when skeletons came tumbling out of Noida. It was just two months ago when a gang of seven men was arrested who had killed 35 people since last January in and around Gurgaon. The killers usually targeted innocent people seeking lift at night and then strangled them to loot their personal valuables.

In the past, Delhi has been trying to contain increasing cases of crime, especially against women, with some even dubbing the city as the ‘rape capital’ of India.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017