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Dr Narang Murder – Us and them “Bangladeshis”

Dr Pankaj Narang’s murder became a showcase for our biases about the urban poor

#WTFnews" data-image-description="<div></div> <div>May 21, 2014 12:59 PM , By Anumeha Yadav</div> <div><img alt="One of the two under-construction sites at Delhi University’s Ram Lal Anand College, where the infant was crushed to death under the contractor’s car." src=";w=220" width="220" height="159" /></p> <div>One of the two under-construction sites at Delhi University’s Ram Lal Anand College, where the infant was crushed to death under the contractor’s car.</div> <div></div> </div> <div> <div> <p> A week after a construction worker’s five-month old daughter was crushed to death under a contractor’s vehicle at a worksite at Ram Lal Anand (RLA) College at Delhi University’s South Campus, the college denied any responsibility denying its role as the principal employer of the contractors at two building sites where construction is on at the campus. Labour department officials were yet to take cognisance of the accident, they said.</p> <p>“My sister-in-law and wife said had laid my daughter on the ground under the shade of a tree while they worked. When they saw the contractor Sabu Sharma’s vehicle, they asked the driver to take care that the baby was on the ground. Still, the driver somehow did not pay attention and ran her over. The driver tried to escape but my wife and brother stopped him and made him help them rush her to the Trauma Center at Safdarjung. She died on the way,” said Jagdish Madhukar, 25, his head tonsured after his daughter’s last rites.</p> <p>The migrant from Chhattisgarh works as a mason with contractor VR Engineer at the college’s under-construction evening college building site. “The college principal told me he will call to share some information for compensation in 2-3 days but he did not. When I approached the contractor Sabu Sharma, he said he did not want to get involved in the matter and gave me Rs. 5,000 for my daughter’s last rites,” he said.</p> <p>The Building and Other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1996 says employers must provide a space which is clean, sanitary, well-ventilated to function as a crèche for use by children below six years of age if more than 50 female workers are employed at the site, and for first-aid facilities.</p> <p>It empowers the government to make rules to ensure health and safety of workers, violation punishable by three months’ imprisonment and Rs. 2,000 fine. At RLA College, construction is on at two sites for building an underground water tank and a Rs. 4 crore-worth new building for holding evening classes, with over 50 female workers employed at both sites. But there are no such facilities available at the construction sites. College authorities denied their responsibility for providing these facilities, or for compensation to the Madhukar family.</p> <p>“The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) is carrying out the building work for the college by employing contractors. They will be liable, not us. The college is not involved in any way. We have asked the worker to meet us tomorrow in case he still needs any help,” said Dr. Jafri S. Shabih the principal for the evening classes held at RLA College.</p> <p>Labour union members criticised the college authorities for passing the buck. “The CPWD may be the contracting body but the college will still be the principal employer. It can not wash its hands off its role as the principal employer,” said Subhash Bhatnagar, Secretary Nirmaan Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam. “During Commonwealth Games work, a child of a worker was killed after he fell and was crushed by a car. The public authories denied responsilibity but Delhi High Court held them responsible to pay compensation,” he said.</p> <p>Labour department officials said both the principal employer and the contractor of the worksite would be held responsible but that the department was yet to take cognizance of the accident as they had not received any information about it. “We cannot take any action till we see the FIR. It is the employer’s responsibility to make the contractor comply with rules,” said Assistant Labour Commissioner Ajit Singh.</p> </div> </div> " data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="aligncenter wp-image-38014 size-full" src="" sizes="(max-width: 656px) 100vw, 656px" srcset=" 300x, 430x, 280x, 250x, 656x" alt="option2" width="656" height="280" />

Camp Number 4 of Jhuggi Jhopdi (JJ) Colony in West Delhi’s Vikaspuri has become notorious since the news of Doctor Pankaj Narang’s murder first broke on March 24. Nine of the accused who have been arrested belong to this camp, which has since attracted visits from the Delhi Police, journalists and activists of Hindu Right-wing organisations.

Those who live here are now visibly perturbed by outsiders. Some claim ignorance at the slightest mention of the night of March 23, when the doctor was beaten to death by a mob outside his house — “we weren’t there, how do we know what happened” — but no one hesitates to say that until now, Camp 4 never had to worry about which resident was Hindu and who was Muslim.

The other sentiment that unites them is contempt towards the media. Some were vocal in their anger and asked us to leave in a not-so-polite manner: “Bhaag jao yahan se. Kyun aaye ho yahan, newswaale?” (“Get lost from here. Why have you come here, media persons?)

“We are Indians, not Bangladeshis.”

Camp 4 was founded by migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, about 25 years ago. It is home to about 300 families of which about 150 families are Muslim. A conversation about Narang’s murder with anyone who lives in the camp’s crowded, one-room homes invariably ends with the jhuggi residents pointing out their secular Indian credentials. “Look, our neighbour is Hindu. Ask her if there has ever been a fight.” “See, we celebrate Holi, Diwali and Eid together. Why is this murder become a Hindu-Muslim issue?” “See our voter IDs, we are Indians not Bangladeshis.”

Unfortunately, the virtual world didn’t care about this ground reality. Rumours about those accused of Narang’s murder being Bangladeshi took on a sinister shape of their own. The responses in Narang’s case show how Twitter conversations can give birth to a real-world threat for those who have no connection to the virtual realm.


Camp Number 4 found itself at the receiving end of manufactured hate and suspicion when media interest in those accused of murdering Narang spiked. “Channels were here to report on the incident and the kind of things people from the press said about us in front of us,” said Mohamed Akbar Ansari, the pradhan, or head, of the camp. “We were called Bangladeshis when all of us are Indians. Close to 100 families – mainly Muslims from UP – have left the camp fearing a backlash.”

Ansari is from Bihar and says he won’t leave the camp no matter how insecure he and his family may feel. “100 number phone karenge agar kuch hua, par yahan se jaenge nahin,” he said. (“I will dial 100 in case something happens but won’t leave.”)

Trial by media

One of the main culprits of false reporting is Sudarshan News, according to the residents. Run by one Suresh Chavhanke, the channel was launched in 2007 and is available on cable TV. It is a mystery how Sudarshan News has managed to retain its licence as a news channel without attracting censure from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for its hate-filled propaganda. (This at a time when the government’s Electronic Media Monitoring Centre has acted with alacrity in issuing show-cause notices to channels for simply reporting on YakubMemon’s hanging.)

Through Sunday, Sudarshan News aired its “reportage” on the Vikaspuri incident, stating that it would expose Bangladeshi encroachers.


Its anchor in the video below says, “Mardaangi ka shankh bajao. Bangladeshi bhagao, Hindustan bachao”. (“Sound a battle cry of virility. Throw out Bangladeshis. Save India.”) This was said while images of slums flash on the screen behind.


Slightly higher in the ranks of credibility, Zee TV in one of its shows had residents of the housing societies in Vikaspuri expressing their misgivings about the jhuggisbeing populated by criminal-minded Bangladeshis. At no point did the reporter check with the residents of Camp 4 and allow them to respond to these allegations.

The Zee TV reporter talks about how every “posh” colony is surrounded by “jhuggis” in Delhi, describing the latter as a menace. One resident (from the right side of the tracks) holds forth: “Inka background hi criminal hai. Inko ko kya hai har cheez free main mil rahi hai, hatiyaane ki aadat hai, bijli free, paani free.” (“Their background is criminal, they are used to freebies and snatching things, electricity free, water free.”)

Meanwhile, Sudhir Chaudhary’s show DNA dwelled on questions like, why people in Delhi were falling prey to “gusse waale pradushan [pollution of anger]”. Before the programme ended, Chaudhary took potshots at “secular” media, saying some journalists outrage on the basis of religion. If the headgear seen in the visual below is any indication, Chaudhary and Zee News seem to think anger is a faith-based issue.


Poor taste

Despite Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Monika Bhardwaj making it clear that none of the accused were from Bangladesh, some channels continued to frame the initial rumours as a legitimate question. Aaj Tak titled its show: ‘Was Dr Narang Killed By Bangladeshi Muslims?’ Another show is titled, ‘Families Allege Killers Were Bangladeshi Muslims’, on its YouTube channel.

The communal hue given to the incident, however, was not the only problem. Contrast the coverage Dr Narang’s murder received to that of the alleged suicide of a 25-year-old woman who wrote in her last note that her husband “beat her like a devil”.

The only detail we receive about where the crime took place was that it happened in a flat in South Delhi’s Defence Colony, without any particulars (like which block, for instance). No questions are raised about “what kind of people” must live in Defence Colony, neither are questions raised about domestic violence in affluent neighbourhoods and gated colonies.

In Dr Narang’s case, crime reporting was reduced to a display of all sorts of unfounded biases that are harboured by some — they don’t work, they live on freebies, they are given to crimes, and so on. There is no attempt to question these statements or allow those being vilified to defend themselves. All of the underprivileged in general and Camp 4 in particular have been tarred with the same brush, without allowing any of the jhuggi residents, who have condemned the murder of Dr Narang’s death, have their say.

The truth about Camp 4

The fact is that the majority of Camp 4’s residents are not good for nothing as asserted in these programmes. Most are employed as battery-rickshaw operators,who ferry genteel residents from the Metro station to their destinations; or as tailors, musicians who play dhols at weddings and festivals. Some are meat and fish sellers. They’re often self-employed.

Kalpana Viswanath, researcher and activist on urban safety, elaborated on how the media’s focus has been flawed.“Who determines who is the citizen of a city?” she asked. “We tend to presume that only if you have property you are a citizen, everyone else is a squatter. Why is the discourse not about work? If you are contributing to the economy of the city then you should have a right to the city. People in the jhuggi are creating economic value for the city.”

Viswanath says the media must look beyond the incident and explore the causes of conflict and increasing violence in the city.

A young resident of Camp 4 studying in Standard 10, has a similar plea. “If you want to crackdown on something, then do so on alcohol and substance abuse among young boys here,” she suggested. “A few have committed the crime, why are we all being made to pay?

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