When a three-month-old baby was brought to KEM hospital last Tuesday, the doctors there immediately informed the police as they strongly suspected the infant had been battered.
But the Borivli police did not question the parents, leave alone register a case. It was only after the child succumbed on Monday, that an FIR was filed on Thursday, and the mother was arrested after she confessed to the assault.
Activists say such instances of police apathy are the norm than an exception. “There is a general indifference towards children.
The Juvenile Justice Act stipulates that all police stations must have child-friendly trained personnel exclusively for cases or complaints related to children, but such a facility is rarely provided.
No resources are allocated for child welfare,” said Nishit Kumar, head of communication and strategic initiatives, Childline India Foundation.
In Western countries, especially in the US and Canada, child-abuse allegations are investigated into and taken very seriously, despite the justification given by parents.
“The police here feel that a case of child abuse is a household matter and try not to interfere. In the West, a child is considered a citizen who has rights,” said Kumar.
For instance, a two-year old baby, Tanaaz Sayyed from Dharavi, died of alleged child abuse in August. “She was brought with fractures and head injuries, signs of abuse. But despite informing them, the police refused to file an FIR,” said Dr Rajesh Dere, associate professor, forensic medicine, Sion hospital.
Child Welfare Committee says it’s helpless
In cases of child battering or abuse, the general sympathy of the society, including the police, lies with the parents, say activists. Dr Shaila Mhatre, chairperson of Child Welfare Committee (CWC), said, “The parents are not made accountable and feel they can do anything with the child. We can only persuade the police to file a FIR report, but do not have powers to take action against anyone.”
Only if the pressure on the police is high, especially from non-governmental organisations or the media, do the police register complaints, activists say.
“In cases of child abuse, the police have no gains to make, and there is no one to oppose their inaction,” said Pramod Nigudkar, programme director, Committed Communities Development Trust.