It Could Happen to You

Why rage, rape and murder is haunting new India

A chat with psychiatrists provides a new window on the state of the nation.

 |  It Could Happen to You  |  3-minute read |   30-09-2015
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"We see a lot of people these days, whose main problem is that they get angry at the drop of a hat, even if it is something unimaginably vague or petty. They can blow off steam at any time and anyone. Being civil is seen as a sign of weakness. If you can't snarl, you are nothing at all."

A chat with psychiatrists always provides a new window on the state of the nation. And Dr Jai Ranjan Ram's comment gave me new food for thought. The consultant psychiatrist with Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, Kolkata, says doctors are worried about the "rage" they witness in their patients these days: "They use anger as a coping device in everyday life and invariably have histories of road rage and disturbing discord with neighbours." So I started probing neighbourly conflicts.

India. It seems, amidst a lot of big news this month, some small news have gone under the radar. Across the country, it seems, battle lines are being drawn. People living next door, or piled on top of each other - neighbours - are busy fighting. They are stepping on each other's toes, getting on each other's nerves, settling scores, gnashing teeth, spending sleepless nights, yelling and telling, beating each other up, lodging complaints or going to the courts. Nothing new, some would say. But if you start checking complaints lodged with the Consumer Court, talk to the police or the lawyers, the reality of neighbourly discord across the country sounds no less alarming than what goes on between India and Pakistan.

Neighbours across India are up in arms. Check out the conflict points: a terrible stink pervades a neighbourhood in Nasik. Not just. There are flies everywhere. They buzz, they flit, they crawl all over the place. People don't know what to do, especially to the neighbour who runs a poultry shop in the locality, with blatant disregard for hygiene. Somewhere in Navrangpura of Ahmedabad, a family is making life difficult for everyone, by refusing to stop throwing soiled sanitary napkins and diapers outside, on the pavement. In Shalimar Gardens, Ghaziabad, someone has dumped broken tiles and concrete on the roadside, making it difficult for people to walk or drive. In Chachal, Guwahati, a part of a street is being taken over by someone, who claims it to be his property. In Begumpet, Hyderabad, speed breakers are being built by someone people are putting up their own.

On September 6, five children walked into the Subramanyapura Police Station in Bangalore. They wanted to lodge a complaint against a woman, a neighbour, in their apartment, Sai Paradise, in Padmanabhanagar. She had screamed at them for creating a ruckus while playing cricket on the terrace and confiscated their wickets and thrown away the ball. "We have nowhere else to play," they wailed at the startled cops.

It gets worse. On September 15, A Class 11 girl was allegedly gangraped by two of her neighbours in outer Delhi's Aman Vihar when she was out for the morning walk on Sunday morning. The two accused, identified as Mohammed Shobat (24) and Mohammed Naushad (19) have been arrested. Angry locals beat the two up and shaved their heads before handing them over to the police.

Last night, September 29, in Dadri, on the outskirts of Delhi, 50-year-old Mohammad Ikhlaq, 70-year-old mother, his wife and his 22-year-old son were attacked brutally by his neighbours, about 100-strong. Ikhlaq was dragged out of home and bludgeoned to death. Why? Because, rumours of a calf being killed in the locality were doing the rounds.

September 28 is celebrated as Good Neighbour Day across the world. India desperately needs a day like that.


Damayanti Datta Damayanti Datta @dattadamayanti

The writer is Executive Editor, India Today.

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