Thursday, January 8, 2009

Live And Let Survive

“Safeguarding the rights of others is the most noble and beautiful end of a human being.”

- Kahlil Gibran -

Many youth have died in the past 2 years due to gang attacks that happened in broad day light on the streets. There were many people around who witnessed the attacks, although the attackers did cover their faces in most cases, identifying the attackers had been impossible for witnesses. Or so they say. This is not the real issue. This is not why the Police are unable to obtain enough witness statements that could prosecute the gangsters, it's a question of saving one's own skin over someone they do not know. Does this justify each one's obligation to their society to make it a better and safe place to live?

This is a little story about a gang fight and the police response after they arrived.

An expatriate worker had been harassed by a group of young fellows, possibly below the age of 18 years. These youngsters harassed this person and mugged MRF 5/- from him, according to witnesses present there. How many times have you heard on the street, or seen for yourself how disrespectful and discriminating people are towards expatriate workers, especially Bangladeshis and Indians? Junkies prowling on the street find these 'low class' expatriates easy prey for mugging and just plain harassment. Why? They are more helpless than the locals to get justice through the law, they can't retaliate and take revenge. But however not in this case.

During the time the expatriate got mugged, I was standing on my terrace having some time for myself. At this point I had no idea that anything unusual had happened. After some time I heard shouting on the street. As I looked I saw a group of 15 or 20 people in a fight, just near the Gadi Buru area, they exchanged blows with the young gang of kids. After the the fighting done the group that attacked the young gang took off to hide, and coincidentally they ran just below my street, some were carrying bricks and wooden clubs, and to my surprise all of them were all either Indians or Bangladeshis or both of these people. They did not look average expatriate workers because they were well dressed, consisted of huge guys and looked ready to kill. While I was digesting this and trying to make out what had happened, I heard more shouting again at the Gadi Buru area. When I looked down the gang of expatriates had disappeared, but the shouting was escalating near the Buru. My curiosity got the best of me and I found myself heading towards the shouting.

By the time I reached where the shouting was near the buru, a huge crowd had already gathered and the Police had arrived as well. Two Policemen carried an unconscious man into the Police van and hurriedly took off to the hospital with their sirens on. As I went and looked to where the excited crowd had surrounded mostly, there was blood on the pavement near a fallen bicycle. The bystanders who had witnessed the incident were elaborating it all at once.

From my deduction this is what had apparently happened. After the expatriates came and retaliated because the small group of youngsters had mugged one of their colleges, the youngsters had really got a taste of their own medicine, they were thoroughly thrashed and beaten, not bloodily or brutally, just the good old fist fight way. Therefore the little egos of the little 'wannabe' gangsters had been pricked in front of everyone.

After the huge group of expatriates left, few minutes later a Bangladeshi had arrived to the near mosque to collect water with a container, he was someone who had nothing to do with what had just happened, nor was he in anyway connected to the group of expatriates who had retaliated. Thus to feed their pricked ego, the youngsters attacked this innocent person and had hit him at the back of his head with a wooden club, he was knocked out cold instantly. According to the bystanders the youngsters then ran away and disappeared, and there was not one person in the crowd who knew who they were, unsurprisingly.

Since the firstly arrived Police had taken the injured victim to the hospital, there were no police there for at least 15 minutes. Some fellows were trying hard to not get any evidence hindered by the passing vehicles, as there was quite an amount of blood, some items that belonged to the victim scattered on the street and the fallen bicycle. At last the Police arrived and tried asking the gathered crowd what had happened. Mostly what all the bystanders had said was that the victim just came here and a group of fellows had attacked him and ran away, that's all. Nobody knew who they were, but admitted it was a group of youngsters that hangs around at that area frequently.

"This is the problem" said the Policeman. "Once we arrive at a crime scene witnesses are so vague and reluctant to give information, so how can we Police find those responsible?".

I did not think twice. I gave them my deduction. I told the Police about the initial harassing of the lone worker that led to mugging MRF5/-, and how a huge gang of expatriates had come and retaliated. I told them due to the retaliation, the youngsters afterward had just attacked an innocent person going to collect water from the mosque for revenge.

"Do you know the people who did this?" the policeman asked me. I told him I saw the initial attacks standing on my terrace, and that I have just told them the real story of the incident. But according to the police since I did not see clearly or know the people who did it, my statement was not very credible. But there were people who were there and saw everything that had occurred, but they chose not to speak or talk to police in a way that would identify the youngsters who had attacked the victim. We have reached the point I had made at the beginning of this post. Why is the public so afraid to help the police? Of course its due to the fear of a revenge attack by gangs, but what is the root problem?

I have not heard of a Witness Protection programme in Maldives. And I would not know if it could be even possible in a small country like ours.

The Police Commissioner had justified recently that its not the police who are incompetent in catching criminals, its the public's lack of courage to come forward and the loop holes in the justice system that lets offenders off out onto the street as easily as they are brought in.

The deeper I contemplate to find the root cause of this social behavior, I find myself going through the same list and down the same road that leads to the same conclusion. The fear, incompetent police, holes in the justice system, social values, residues of a corrupt regime,..so on and so forth. We habitually externalize our problems and short comings, blame it on someone else when we are the actual problem. And I think one thing I'm sad to admit is the lack of empathy we have towards others, and our racist outlook on the people from our neighbouring countries.

If even for once people chose to stand in the victim's shoes or someone who is related to the victim, they could empathize and feel what they would feel. Ask yourself. How would you feel if while you visit India, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh and gets mugged, harassed and made to feel inferior where ever you go? How would you feel to be treated like an animal in a foreign land?

This is one thing we as Maldivians have to accept and change within our social beliefs; a huge amount of the Maldivian public is racist and self-absorbent. Not only do we ignore, (for whatever reasons), a murder happening in front of our eyes, a slaughtering of our country's own youth, we care less than we would do even for a rag when we treat these poor struggling expatriate workers. Is this the Islamic values we claim to follow? Or are these beliefs and selfish attitude an outcome of social upbringing that happens inside our homes?

I could have described to the police where the expatriate gang that had retaliated had gone to, since I saw them get away standing on my house's terrace, but I chose not to. They did the same thing you would do (if you could), if your friends or family got mugged or attacked at every corner constantly, there's no protection from the law and you keep being victimized, over and over and over again, it was already due in coming. To me it was justified. So I chose to understand and give silence when I felt it was the right thing to do. The gang of youngsters escaped with a few scrapes and a few black eyes. But unfortunately the victim who got injured simply by being at the wrong place, at the wrong time was put in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and then a few days later was taken abroad for extensive medical attention.

He did not survive.

1 comment:

Hilath said...

Just plain tragic. It's more frustrating when we realise the situation is helpless. Or is it really helpless, sometimes I question myself.