“ I have found mental resistance from the so called educated classes”
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha is a renowned journalist, author and documentary filmmaker. Married to Kiran Bedi’s daughter Saina, they both have been producing short stories and documentaries. His documentary Yamuna Gently Weeps, which dealt with arbitrary evacuation of slum dwellers in Delhi’s Yamuna Pushta, received much critical acclaim in several countries. Along with social commentaries, he has also written books on the paranormal and the mystical, such as The Fakir and The Last Marathon.
Q- Could you tell us a bit about your latest book, My God is a Juvenile Delinquent?
A-My God Is A Juvenile Delinquent is a book on children who commit crime or those who are accused of committing a crime. In India, we have approximately 30,000 children who are considered to be in conflict with the law. They are below the age of eighteen, and have been accused of crimes ranging from petty theft, rape, murder. This is the first book in India, which deals with the emotional and psychological issues concerning children in conflict with the law and who are holed up in observation homes, which is nothing but a pathetic euphemism for prisons for children. I have interviewed children who were remanded in these observation homes and who shared their lives and their state of mind and plight with me.
Q- What are some of the problems, emotional and otherwise, which these children face?
A-The greatest problem facing these children is that very often they are innocent and being innocent and then to be caged up in observation homes, often for years, can be a fatal cocktail, that could lead to frustration and a real entry into the dark abyss of crime. Often the kids admitted that they had committed a crime for which they had paid their price for their misdemeanor but now they were holed up in the observation homes for crimes they had not committed. Our cops believe in the adage once a thief always a thief a little too literally or to get brownie points with their superiors or just lethargy, it is easier to pin the blame on kids who are most often migrants or from the financially underprivileged section of society; thus easy prey for the cops. Secondly, the kids aren’t represented by lawyers. Also, once in the observation homes, they have really nothing to do. Sodomy, drugs, bullying reign and medical supplies and intellectual ways and vocational therapy are in real short supply. Boredom, frustration, hunger create a very deadly impact on these children. Very often kids come out all screwed up with anger and hate and negativity.
Q- Once the juvenile delinquents are out of homes, is there a process of rehabilitation which takes place? Are they educated and made ready to face the big bad world so that they aren’t forced to commit a crime again?
A- There is no rehabilitation once they come out and education or even proper occupational and vocational training is missing. We as a society care a rat’s arse for our poor and abandoned kids.
Q- Do you believe that a writer has a certain social responsibility towards the society?
A- Why writers. Don’t we all have a social responsibility towards the underprivileged and the less fortunate and the abandoned and the damned? What is it with us…why is taking care of our poor only the job of the Government and to leave something so important in the hands of the Government doesn’t speak very highly about either are moral or intellectual stand point. We all need to light candles, for darkness to be dispelled.
Q- Since the time you wrote ‘Yamuna Gently Weeps’, have there been any positive changes in Yamuna Pushta?
A- 1,50,000 people were left homeless. 35,000 homes were bulldozed in a matter of days, five years back and all for nothing. It still beats the hell out of me, why the demolition was conducted in such a barbaric and inhuman manner without any real thought for the present or the future of these poor people. And what did it achieve. You break one slum, ten will crop up, for the simple reason the poor living in slums have no place else to go. If they had work and livelihood in their native land, why would they come to cities and be forced to live in a state demeaning and inhuman. No positive change has taken place. !6,000 families were thrown on a barren piece of land forty kilometers on the outskirts of Delhi. Even now they don’t have a source of livelihood.
Q- Most of your works deal with some ground realities which many Indians would rather like to ignore. Have you found any sort of mental resistance from the Indian audience?
A- I have found mental resistance from the so called educated classes. When I wrote Shadows in Cages, which deals with mother and child in Indian prisons, I was asked by innumerable members of the so called educated strata of society, as to why was I wasting time writing on the conditions of criminals. Then, for Yamuna Gently Weeps, which focused on slum demolitions, I was accused of siding with slum dwellers and the ‘riff-raff’ of society and for My God is a Juvenile Delinquent, I was accused of being overtly emotional and paternal with kids who deserved to be locked up and the keys thrown away. But my crazy faithful readers, the youth and social workers all have stood by my so called wayward ventures .