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Serial Killings in Noida and Ipswich
[Opinion] From India to the U.K., some things never change
Ranjit Goswami (ranjit)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2007-01-04 08:38 (KST)   
Lately, two separate incidents of serial killings were reported -- both, expectedly, have some similarities as well as many differences. Both stories made headlines -- one globally, the other nationally (so far). One took place in the developed world, the other in the developing world.

In the U.K., the victims in one case were dealers in sex -- adult prostitutes -- forced by the government's "zero tolerance" policy to seek out isolated areas in which to solicit clients. In India, the victims in the other case were sexually exploited, forced by poverty to be on guard for small opportunities -- children and women easily baited with an offer of a little chocolate or a few bucks. In both cases, the victims were from the weaker sections of their respective societies.

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In the U.K., in Ipswich, a serial killer murdered at least five prostitutes. In India, in Noida (near New Delhi, the capital), the number of children and women murdered is still not known. Reports so far indicate a minimum of 22 based on recovered remains; the number could be as high as 50 based on the number of missing children from the same area over the same time period. The police took in Stephen Wright, a driver of trucks and forklifts, and Moninder Singh Pandher, a member of an elite section of Indian society.

Let's compare the actions of the police in these two cases.

In Ipswich, the police acted in Hollywood style -- swiftly, as soon as two bodies were recovered in the same area from the same profession. There was all around alertness. The police advocated awareness and advised Ipswich prostitutes to stay indoors at nights. Many defied this advice, and a few paid dearly for it. But sooner rather than later, the police caught the culprit -- innocent, of course, until proven guilty. Wright has not entered a plea, but the killings have stopped, at least temporarily. In all, it was a matter of a couple of months.

In Noida, the police acted in Bollywood style. The parents and guardians of missing children tried to lodge complaints with the police, but the police mostly turned them away -- you see this kind of action, or inaction, often in Bollywood movies.

Kiran Bedi, who now heads the Bureau of Police Research and Development, said in an interview that the police are under pressure not to lodge complaints because a high number of complaints make the government look bad in the eyes of the media and in the mindset of the people. So to reduce crime, many cases are never recorded. In this case, as all the victims were from marginalized sections of society, there was no pressure on the police to act.

So how did the case come to light? First, an accomplice of Pandher's was found to have a mobile phone belonging to one of the victims. Then the remains of the victims -- skeletons mostly -- literally came out of the drains from Pandher's house. Some of the victims had been reported -- or attempts were made to report them -- missing as long as 30 months ago.

Let's compare the actions of top governmental officials in these two cases.

The Ipswich case forced British Prime Minister Tony Blair to concede, "There may well be lessons that we have to learn as a result of the terrible events of the past few weeks." Many people are demanding fairer practices to reduce risks related to the profession of prostitution in Britain, which according to the Association of Chief Police Officers, has long blighted communities and fostered organized crime because of the government's tightened enforcement of laws on street prostitution.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has not yet commented officially on the Noida case, other than an unofficial assurance of a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) inquiry, as the people's faith in the state's police machinery dwindled. In a system where everything works systematically, heads of government can let that system work. In a system where nothing works because the government doesn't want it to work, because it casts a bad light on the government or whatever, words from a head of that government is merely lip service. Singh, who is not a seasoned politician but a seasoned economist, commented a few days back about making Indian economic growth "inclusive," so that weaker sections of society benefit more from its recent resurgence.

In the developed world, to right a wrong, the government discusses corrective actions, heeding lessons learned from what took place, and then takes action. In India, what with the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, the state where Noida is located, the talk is centered more on politics than on possible corrective actions. Politician after politician has appeared in heated discussions on the Noida serial killings on live television stating that they have not been politicizing the issue while obviously making politicizing statements that the popular media probably loves. As citizens, we hope that they are telling the truth; however, when one looks at one recent proposal by the Supreme Court to de-politicize the police force from state governments, irrespective of party lines, one sees that most state governments are opposed.

Perhaps the politicization of sensational criminal cases is different in Britain...
©2007 OhmyNews
Ranjit Goswami is a research scholar with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, India; and is the author of the book "Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d'".
Other articles by reporter Ranjit Goswami

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