In July this year, we received a distressed call from one of our children, Bipin. We have been working with Bipin from when he was in a correctional facility for children in 2018. A family dealing with years of trauma caused by domestic violence and poverty, our work with them has continued over the years, providing psycho-social support and restorative dialogues between each other.
The call came in while the country was still in lockdown, owing to the global pandemic. He told us his father had been drinking and physically abusing his mother. His voice sounded shaken, like a lot more had happened. When Urvashi, our Director for Restorative Justice, inquired further, he handed the phone off to his mother. His mother was sobbing inconsolably and informed Urvashi, that her husband had also abused their daughter, Bipin’s younger sister, Naina. While we were heartbroken to hear of this happening with a family we were working with, we had to swing into action immediately to ensure that the children and their mother was safe, and a police case was registered, all while adhering to the lockdown restrictions.
Our team faced hurdles like never before. Since the family lives on the border of Delhi, the case was registered in a jurisdiction that we do not work in. The challenges of working beyond our jurisdiction were many, we were required to go out into the field during a national lockdown. The police were hostile and uninterested in registering a case, we reached out to the national child helpline authorities in the area and asked them to help us in reaching support to the children. Urvashi and Nikita from CSJ accompanied the children to the police station and ensured their statements were taken.
We will now represent Naina in court and support the children and their mother in all ways possible against a hostile family steeped in patriarchal norms, that has already begun ostracizing them for sending their father to jail. We hold on to the hope of this resilient family – while Bipin and his mother are both working again to make ends meet, Naina has gone back to school. While we see the hope and resilience in these children, we also think of many other children facing similar circumstances while struggling with the “new normal”.
The pandemic has not only confined a number of children to abusive households, but has also limited access to education, health, and food. While we continue to reach out to as many children as we can and stand with them through this difficult time, we need your support in expanding and continuing our efforts.