Did Rooth deserve to die for her mother's job?
As mothers, we all remember waking up many a freezing winter nights just to cover our small children who invariably throw away their blankets. I still do and am disturbed by 14-month-old Eknoor Kaur "Rooth" being allowed to freeze to death in Bathinda while her mother protested for her job. Sukhdeep Kaur writes...Updated: Feb 08, 2014 21:50 IST
As mothers, we all remember waking up many a freezing winter nights just to cover our small children who invariably throw away their blankets. I still do. And every time I do so, I wonder how our kids catch a cold inside cosy bedrooms while those on the streets don't. This is why I am disturbed by 14-month-old Eknoor Kaur "Rooth" being allowed to freeze to death in Bathinda, while her mother protested for her job. Much as I understand the need for a job even to provide the basic necessities to children, I am appalled that a small child should pay the price.
Rooth took none of the decisions that led to her death. She did not know what was the protest about and what it was like to stage one atop a water tank, left to the winter elements. As a child, she had her own rights -to safety and protection - which are the first responsibility of her biological parents. Had this been Birmingham or Berlin and not Bathinda, would her mother be even allowed to stage such a protest with a small child in her arms? The outrage would have perhaps been on the violation of Rooth's rights more than the government's ruthless attempt to suppress a peaceful protest.
Her pictures in newspapers lying dead wouldn't tell us how little Rooth struggled that night to get whatever warmth her mother's lap could provide her. But as a mother, who has seen children shivering while taking even a warm bath and changing clothes, I shiver to think how her small body would have fought the cold till it could no more. Those reading my piece would say it is easy to preach when you do not have to worry about your next meal, next month's rent or school fees, all of which need a job. But do our children deserve to die so that we get them?
Our learned education minister has chosen to call the death a case of malnutrition. If that were a fact, the head of his government should hang in shame. While the state claims to distribute crores worth of wheat and dal to poor families, a mother had to keep her child solely on her feed till 14 months. Bathinda doctors have said Rooth's brain had shrunk because of multivitamin deficiency. Is this not outrageous in a state which claims to be the food basket of the country and the land of plenty? Worse, could such a child be even made a part of such a protest?
Having lived a life of a toddler whose parents struggled for daily needs, Rooth was even denied a peaceful burial. Her lifeless body became a symbol of protest against a "ruthless and insensitive" regime as it was laid on the road, then led through streets. She may be buried after the protesting teachers extract a compensation, even promise of jobs. But it scares me that her death does not set a dangerous precedent - of sacrificing a child at the altar of jobs.
Every time a mother holding a toddler half-naked knocks on my car window, I debate within myself if it is the state which is failing in its duty towards the mother who is forced to beg on the streets with a child in her arms or the mother who is doing so. One such day, while a mother asked for money, the toddler in her arms asked for fruits in my car. But the mother insisted on money. Was she thinking for her hungry child? Perhaps her concerns were bigger than his wanting to taste the fruit. Much as I wish there were jobs for all so that no one has to climb a water tank to demand it from a government that seems deaf to such demands, or beg on the streets, I also hope among the many fundamental rights in our country, would also be a fundamental duty for parents - to protect and care for every new life they bring into this world.