Rinku Das, 23, is an employee of what else a call center in Kolkotta, India. Her father is a tea shop owner, an average Joe with two daughters, Rinku and her married elder sister. He had a son in high school, too, until a couple of days ago. Rajib Das, 16, was stabbed by rowdies Tuesday evening in Barasat, a suburb of Kolkotta. A few hours later he died in a hospital that was more interested in making sure that the forms were properly filled in than saving his life.
Everyday story, nothing extraordinary.
Tuesday evening, Rajib, as he had done routinely before, escorted his sister from Barasat train station, returning from her day of work in Kolkotta. On their way home, a gang of drunken thugs assaulted Rinku. They poured liquor all over her body, and then tried to abduct her. Rajib resisted, and in the ensuing melee, he was stabbed to death. It was as ordained by the gods. Happens always when women dare to work outside of their homes. To them and their loved ones.
A new wrinkle in this oft reported olds from emerging India. While Rajib was being attacked, Rinku ran to the District Magistrate's house, which happened to be just a few yards away from the spot where the incident took place. A very important person that he was, armed guards had been posted outside his house 7x24 to protect him from the people he was supposed to serve. Who knows when a few crazies among them may instigate an attempt on his life and property? Rinku pleaded with the guards to help her brother.
Wait, we must consult the rule book!
Sorry, miss, we cannot leave our post. That'd be highly irregular. Please call the police station. Your brother and his assailants could sort it out among themselves until the police arrived. Come on, Rinku, what did you expect? You might be paying their salary, but did you really believe that the guards would abandon their master and come to your rescue? What if the District Magistrate were to lose his life or limbs in a terrorist attack that's always looming around the corner? How many millions of people would be deprived of his valuable service?
A long line of politicians formed outside Rinku's house next day. To pay their last respects to Rajib, of course, and not because of the approaching election. Never mind that they they knew Rajib only as a point in the census until yesterday. Everyone was there. The Chief Minister came to offer his personal condolences and public money. $5000 in all, to compensate the family for their loss.
Did I say Rajib's life was cheap?
Not to be outdone by the incumbent, the opposition leader was there, too:
Amaake ekta phone korli na keno re shedin raat-ey? Amar phone number to shobar kachhei achhe (Why didn’t you call me that night? Everyone has my number),” Kakali said.
She spent 40 minutes talking to Rinku and accusing Bhattacharjee of being responsible for Rajib’s death. Before leaving, she thrust a wad of Rs 500 notes into the palm of Rinku’s elder sister. “You’ll need it… Lots of things to do,” Kakali said.
Outside, the masses decried the alpha dogs on the other side, as they had done before, everyday, everywhere. Aspiring leaders and their minions tried to shout down each other with what else "Long live, Rajib Das!" and more loudly, "Shame on you, B___jee!". If our B___jee had been in command, the DM's guards would have instantly rushed to the rescue of Rajib! It's a conspiracy by the communal forces! The evil multinational call-center must pay for Rajib's life! Bray, bray, bray!
A flower bedecked hearse arrived just in time, proudly flying the flags of the opposition party. Perhaps, to make amends for what the party's chairperson of Barasat municipality had said to Rinku earlier, "Ki aar kora jabe… kopale ja lekha chhilo tai hoyechhe". It's your fate! What to do?
"I saw Trinamul flags tied to the stretcher and tried to uproot one of them. A party member hit me with a flagstick," complained Nayan. "Rajib was my childhood friend but who are these people?"