It is the age of right based schemes and development approach. We have Right to Education, Right to Food, Right to Information and Forest Rights etc. for the emergence of a just society. Why can’t we have the Right to sleep or Right to shelter? Those who have experienced sleepless nights at any circumstances must be aware of how horrendous it is to be awake when people around them are fast asleep. One may go annoyed and even wild when one is unable to sleep at midnight. People suffering from illness, having night shift duty, those who happened to be at emergency situations and those who could not obtain confirmed train tickets and many other people in various situations in life are destined to go through the awful experience of sleeplessness. Besides that there are millions of people who are homeless across the world for whom every night is an excruciatingly dreadful experience. It is irrational to find one section of the society having shelter, safety and security and the other section wandering on the street with uncertainty and fear. It is true that the history and the research have dug deep into the issue and provided with statistics and analytical perceptive for such unjust imbalances.
I happened to witness a police man dealing in a horrifying way with two people sleeping at the Lucknow railway station at 12.30 am. The first scene was the police man on duty slapping on a man’s face while a boy who seems to be his son watching the event with helplessness and fear. I could not find a reason for such a coldhearted action from the circumstances. It all happened in front of the gate to the platform. Without any resistance or aggression the man left the platform silently holding the boy’s hand. I was just watching the policeman’s next move. Then he stepped ahead and struck a young man sleeping next to an old woman with his boot. The boy got up and the policeman asked something. Before the boy could reply anything, the policeman slapped thrice on the boy’s face. Then he held the boys hair and swirled around and slapped once again. Then he told him something and moved forward. The boy woke the woman up and both of them left the place immediately. The policeman had a good reason to say. “These people sleep here to loot the passengers. They are rich beggars.” I was not surprised. I happened to hear the logic of humiliation towards the vulnerable sections of the society on several occasions. The marginalized are stereotyped, humiliated and crushed by the logic of main stream society as well as the law enforcement agencies. I recollected a warning by Kerala Police displayed on the bus stand. It was asking the passengers to beware of Tamil women who may steal jewelry and money while travelling in the city and while waiting at the bus stand. I also read how ‘Thug’ community in the north India was considered as the community of crime and how they were arrested and punished for every crime in and around their locality by the British and the police of the independent India.
Some irrelevant questions: Why some people sleep on the street? Don’t they deserve fair treatment if they happen to sleep on a plat form? What about the justice when the law is enforced? Don’t the homeless have the right to sleep somewhere?
Epilogue: The next to the boy and the old woman were sleeping many other people well dressed. They were not questioned or disturbed. ‘Appearance is deceptive’, is an old saying.