India Uncut

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Saturday, January 01, 2005

Despatches 9: Identity

When we reach Pandasalai, one of the worst-affected areas in the district of Nagore, the locals rush up to us and say, "only the Muslims came". It takes us a bit of time to figure this out. These people are lower-caste people, and for that reason, none of the other residents of Nagore, mostly higher-caste Hindus, came to their aid. Instead, Muslims groups came forward and helped them. Later, people like Madhu Kumar did come forward, but they were from outside. Their neighbours just did not care.

A short while later, we are by the sea, watching a heavy earth-moving vehicle, so much in shortage throughout the state, making a grave besides a pile of rubble, and then lifting a grotesquely deformed woman's body out of it to put her in. But it's not as easy as it sounds. Twice the metal claw scoops her into her grip, twice she slips out, and the second time, she gets stuck in a fishing net coming out of the rubble. Kumar goes forward with a sickle to cut her free. But he is asked to wait.

We wait for five minutes, wondering what the fuss is all about. Then we find out. A government official has to take a photgraph of the body, for relief and identification purposes. He eventually arrives, takes her photograph, and goes off. We all look on, bewildered. The body has no face.

But we do know one thing. She is not, or rather, was not, an upper-caste Hindu.
amit varma, 10:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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