Guwahati Slums: The Dark Reality
In swanky Guwahati, there are sections of citizens who are residing in some of the most inhuman conditions in the world. The slums of Guwahati seem indispensable but are areas that we can never be proud of. G Plus presents some real stories from these underbellies of the city.
‘My alcoholic husband is lusty for female flesh’
45 year old Hamida (name changed) has more scars in her mind than on her body. A major portion of her life has been a dim set of alternatives; to stay with an abusive and alcoholic husband or to raise her 5 children as a single mother. Married to her husband at a very young age, Hamida hardly has any trace of a healthy marriage. By the day, she'd go out to procure food and earn a living while her husband would ensure his subsistence through alcoholic. By evening, she'd return home to bare her body to his atrocities. "This is not just my scenario. There are hundreds of women like me," she says.
Violence against women is a significant problem prevailing in the slums. The craving for sex, alcoholism and desire for a male child are the prime reasons for this “horrendous truth.”
Hamida has been prey to many forms of violence: sexual, physical and emotional. Her body has been subjected to punches, hits, kicks, battery, strangles and more. Her feet bear a deep scar of a machete. “This is how we grow up in slums. We face this every day and night. This scar that you see on my feet is from an evening when I refused to give money to my husband to buy liquor. In anger he threw the machete at me,” said Hamida.
Drugs make the children ‘happy’
Slum children face violence, sexual exploitation and physical abuse from their own peers. Indulging in drugs and other addictives is a common culture of escapism for them; they find solace in the “high.” They are deprived of any motivation in life and indulging in substance abuse is the only way they opt to channelize their energies.
For the children in the slums, drugs are not a recreational thing but a refuge. These children are often abused not by just criminals, but also by those who are supposedly their protectors. "We have been into drugs for many years now. There is a shopkeeper who runs a CD shop. He gets drugs in small containers for us," said 17 year old Rasheed (name changed).
Rasheed has been indulging in drugs since he was 6-7 years old. Drugs to these children come at a cost of Rs 100 - Rs 300 per small container. “We have our own code words for drugs. We use words like ‘point’ and ‘paao’ to ask for a certain amount of brown sugar. We get 3.5 points of addictive substance for Rs 300. For Rs 1,500, we get a whole syringe of drugs. Sometimes, we use code words to buy ghutkas from shops; if we need Shikhar, we would say ‘Kharshi’ ” Rasheed said to G Plus.
When asked how he manages to get the money to buy such substance, he replied without a tinge of remorse, “Ami sur koru gharar pora poisa” (We steal money from home). Rasheed is just one example of the lot who has no idea why he is on drugs. He simply said, “Bhal lage drugs khai, tension nathake eku” (We feel good taking drugs; there is no tension after that).
Drugs act as a way for these children to get through their daily routine of hardship and abuse. These children are not exposed to education; even if any of them go to school, there is no counselling for them, just the easy way of punishment.
City-based child rights activist, Miguel Das Queah said "Children living in slum areas are often under the stress of poverty, social isolation, abuse and exploitation. An easy access to the drug blackmarket makes things worse as children become drug dependent to release stress levels. Since their parents are occupied with survival related concerns, child care takes a backseat. This lack of care makes children even more vulnerable."
As their addiction becomes stronger, everything else takes a backseat.
Rape is ‘okay’ here
Of late, “rape” and “molestation” have made the headlines every second day on the regional media. Most of the accused are slum residents. These culprits are often from these communities that promote gender-based violence.
17 year old Anwara (name changed) and her friends have been facing the same concern. As soon as they step out of the house, they are objectified by the boys of the slums, men on the streets and in several cases, by patrolling police teams.
In daylight, women are objectified with various names, and in the evening, under dim streetlights and large swathes of darkness, rape and molestation happen. The boys and girls in slums grow up seeing their mothers raped by their fathers, their sisters being molested by men in the vicinity, their fathers involved in sexual activities with other women; it's total chaos.
"It is institutionalised rape such that the society sees nothing wrong with it. Those who face it are often threatened. Many a time, we are objectified by the police themselves," says Anwara.
Sex is a dirty business in slums. For males who live in slums, rape is just another easy activity. It is almost an inheritance. Children in slums grow up in houses with single rooms where they witness their parents engaging in sexual activities. Often, the dark side of the activity where fathers rape mothers is deemed “okay.” And they grow up believing rape is okay and go on to exhibit the same mentality and behaviour in front of their own children years later.
Guwahati isn't all that we deem it to be; it's appalling that such hard hitting realities exist within the periphery of our “fast developing city.” Garbage and filth, miserable toilets, deplorable living conditions, hovels, abuse and violence have plagued the lifestyle of these communities somehow pulling down the growth of the city.
Who is to blame? Where lies the solution?