OVER A month after two minors at Ulhasnagar were stripped and paraded for allegedly stealing a snack, they have stopped going to school. “A few times, when he went out to play, boys in the area teased him by calling him ‘chakli chor’. Though school has begun since June 15, he refuses to go, fearing he will be taunted in front of the entire class or in presence of teachers,” says the 33-year old mother of the younger of the two boys, aged eight.
She added that since most of the kids from the neighbourhood go to the same school, her son is apprehensive. “I tried convincing him to go to school. This week, he even woke up early, but was reluctant again,” she says.
The older of the two boys, aged nine, is not going to school either, as it is in the same area where the incident took place.
On May 21, the two boys from the Premnagar locality in Ulhasnagar were allegedly caught stealing chakli from a nearby shop. The boys were stripped naked allegedly by the shop owner and his sons. The accused also tonsured the boys’ heads, made them wear footwear around their necks and paraded them in the locality. At least three mobile phone cameras recorded this and within a few hours, a video of the incident was widely circulated on social media.
The boys’ mothers, both single parents, were away at work and came to know of the incident when a neighbour showed them the video.
The video has ensured that the boys are easily recognised in the locality. The mothers, too, have had to face problems.
After the incident, both the women could not go to work for 8-10 days. They worked as domestic helps in many homes in Ulhasnagar, working for nearly 12 hours and earning Rs 5,000 per month. “I had to be around my son as he was in shock and there were many visitors. When I returned to work after 8-10 days, my employers had found replacements. For nearly a month, I have been jobless,” says the 25-year old mother of the nine-year old boy.
The 33-year old, too, has lost a few jobs and her earnings have been halved, she says.
The women say that though sending their children to another school away from the locality is an option, money and access are problems. “Sending him to a private school will be too expensive. I have tried to look for other schools but the process is time-consuming and I can’t take leave from my job,” says the 33-year old.
The women also tried enrolling the children in state-run hostels. While the 33-year old was told that her eight-year old was too young for a hostel, the 25-year old said she visited a hostel in Kurla but was not happy with its condition. On Wednesday, she approached the Child Welfare Committee again, seeking that her son be sent to a children’s home nearby. “She has approached us. We will hear the case to decide,” said Meenal Thakore, chairperson of the Thane CWC.
While many, including the Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, had assured help after the incident, the mothers say little has been done so far. When contacted, AN Tripathi, Member Secretary of the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, who had visited the two minors in May, said he would not be able to comment as he was not in the city.
The three accused, booked on charges including under POCSO and Atrocities Act, are in jail, said senior inspector Mohan Waghmare of Hill Line police station.