It seems to be a failure of the civic society at large that led to the brutal death of a six-year-old girl at Bilathikkulam here on Tuesday. The neighbours knew she was being tortured for over six months. Childline was informed and so was the police. Unfortunately, no one did anything on time or else the child could have been saved.

Subramanyan Namboothiri, the priest at the Bilathikkulam temple, rented the house around 10 months ago. Bilathikkulam People’s Residents’ Association president T. Andikkutty, who owned the house in which the family stayed, said Namboothiri was staying with his second wife Devika, their son and two daughters.

The neighbours smelt something fishy six months ago when they noticed that Namboothiri used to beat up the children mercilessly at the slightest provocation. The children were made to wake up at 4 a.m. when Arun was to chant mantras as part of the Brahmin tradition. Some neighbours noticed that Adithi was washing clothes at that time.

The children never used to talk to anyone about the torture they were facing. The teachers of the school where they studied questioned Adithi on the injuries on her hand and were told that it happened when she fell down from a bicycle.

A neighbour called up Childline and the police when they heard shouts and sounds of thrashings from the house quite often and were concerned about the safety of the children. The Childline visited the house thrice, but could only meet the residents on their third visit. Once the gates were closed, and another time, dogs were let loose on them.

On their third visit, the Childline activists visited Namboothiri at the temple and warned him. “The child could have been saved if the Childline had acted more responsibly,” said Mr. Andikkutty.

“They talked to many neighbours and we had given them all the information that we had. Still, they left with just a warning and did not care to seek the help of police when they were denied entry into the house earlier,” he added.

However, the Childline claims that they could not find anything that spoke of such cruel torture at the house.

“We often come across parents who try to discipline children through a little violence. We usually warn them properly against such conduct and take serious action only if the problem persists. In this case, we were called in around 20 days ago. There was not enough evidence or time to resort to drastic steps or inform the police,” Childline Centre Coordinator Subheesh Theyyambadi told The Hindu.

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