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13-year-old boy chained by his family

cruel confinement:The 13-year-old boy from Kumbharwada sits with thick chain locked around his ankles. —Photo: Shantanu Das  

Deep in the maze of lanes that is Kumbharwada, the potters’ colony in Dharavi, inside a one room-kitchen home protected by a Labrador, Ashish (name changed) sits with thick chain locked around his ankles. Ashish is just 13, and he in chains because, his family claims, he is mentally ill and steals things from people, but has an intelligent mind which he doesn’t use.

When The Hindu asked why he was so cruelly confined, his mother said, “He creates problems for us by stealing from the neighbours and the passers by. If I set him free for even an hour, everybody in the neighbourhood would rush to our home and complain that he stole from them.” She said that the boy has been thieving around the neighbourhood since he was eight years old, which has led them to take the extreme step, and their visits to the doctor has yielded nothing different from their judgement of the situation.

“The doctor advised us that we keep him in confinement and the police recommended the same,” says his uncle, Prakash Moopnar, who works as a cook for a catering company. Ashish’s mother is a homemaker, and his father works in a corporate office. His family says Ashish is enterprising, out fending for himself in a foreign environment, that he has a keen mind which he can use for good, but he deliberately tries to be a nuisance. His mother says, “Getting sick of his habits, we took him to our family village in Chennai and left him there with our kin. But he escaped and came back home on his own.”

Ashish, when asked about his behaviour, repeats the label his family has given him: “ Mai pagal hu thoda [I am a little mad].” He listens carefully to questions and is quick to reply, but he shies away when his family narrates stories about him. He says he wants to become a dancer or a drummer, but doesn’t have the same enthusiasm for studies, and does not want to pursue it as of now.

The neighbours said that the boy does have a habit of stealing things but confining him in chains is an extreme step. A potter near the family home, who did not wish to be named, said, “That boy steals things, which is a bad habit and can lead to something worse, but keeping him in chains is not a solution. He should be treated if he has a mental illness and sent to a school to study.”

The writer is an intern at The Hindu

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 6:09:36 PM |

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