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Street Crimes and People’s Apathy

Aarti Aarti
05 Jun 2023
Human beings are social animals but the cause for concern is that globally impatience and intolerance especially among youngsters seems to be on the rise.

The brutal manner in which a 20-year-old man stabbed and bludgeoned a 16-year-old girl to death in full public view this May 28 in Delhi's Shahbad Dairy is shocking and the inaction of bystanders condemnable.

Preliminary reports suggest that the couple knew each other for over a year but had gotten close in the last three-four months. The man fought with the girl a day before she was killed. 

Although she was taken to the hospital but declared “dead on arrival”. The Delhi Government has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 10 lakh to the family of the deceased minor.

The accused, said to have no previous involvement in crime, immediately switched off his mobile phone, sat in a nearby park for some time, travelled in public transport to reach the inter-state bus terminus at Anand Vihar, slept in a park and boarded a bus next day morning to reach his aunt’s house in the neighbouring Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh. He was arrested from Bulandshahr, after a call from his aunt to his father was traced to his location.

While the ongoing investigation is expected to reveal what actually happened, the deceased minor’s post-mortem reportedly has indicated 16 deep stab wounds besides many slashes and blunt impact injuries caused by smashing her head with a concrete block. The cause of death was due to be haemorrhagic shock caused by multiple injuries on the body. Her left lung had collapsed, the loops of intestines were protruding from the body and there was a deep incision on the left side of the abdomen.

Human beings are social animals but the cause for concern is that globally impatience and intolerance especially among youngsters seems to be on the rise. Studies have classified relationships into two categories – positive (healthy) and unhealthy. In the former, notwithstanding disagreement, the couple not only supports each other but mutually show empathy and compassion. 

However, in unhealthy relationships, also called toxic, they are actually emotionally and sometimes even physically harmful to one person. In unhealthy relationships, initially many toxic people seem to be extremely charismatic as well appear to be the ideal partner and do not show their negative side. Over a period of time, they exhibit their true colours, beside turn emotionally abusive to their partner.

Now coming to the part of general public who witnessed the gruesome crime, it is unfortunate that not one of the several bystanders intervened or came to the victim’s rescue. According to reports, the minor could have been saved if someone had come forward and stopped the murderer. 

Some years back, a 16-year-old student in the US was ambushed by several juveniles on his way home from school. He was then brutally beaten and stabbed to death. Many of his peers not only watched the victim bleeding to death but recorded the entire incident on their mobile phones. Similarly, when a 28-year-old woman was brutally raped and murdered outside her New York apartment several years back, many residents who heard her screams did nothing. 

More recently a woman who was sexually assaulted on a train near Philadelphia, in full view of several passengers, received no help from any of the onlookers. Withholding help to someone in need is called the bystander effect. That is people in a group just fail to offer help to someone during an emergency, even though they are witnesses to the event. It is difficult to understand what goes on inside the mind of an individual bystander. 

According to research, the bigger the group of bystanders, the less likely it is that anyone will come to help. Leading psychologists Darley and Latane found that people tend to feel a moral responsibility to help someone in distress if they believe they are the only witnesses. However, when surrounded by others, they are significantly less likely to feel like they have to intervene (70 percent of people would help a woman in distress if they were the only bystander, only 40 percent would come to her aid if other people were present).

In dealing with bystander apathy related to street crimes, we need to take a leaf out of Union Government’s ongoing Good Samaritans scheme under which a cash award of Rs 5,000 is given to those who save the life of a road accident victim by rushing him/her to hospital within the 'golden hour' of the mishap. It needs to be appreciated that how passengers took their fate into their own hands and together joined against the hijackers when the United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked in September 2001.

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