Thursday, October 1, 2009

I didn’t want them to get hurt like I did!

The note Rekha left after the murder This is what Rekha Kumari-Baker had written on a piece of paper she left in the crime scene, after murdering her two daughters. Davina was 16. Jasmine was 13. Their mother Rekha stabbed them 66 times with a kitchen knife she had bought two days before the murder and then left this note. She is now convicted and sentenced for 33 years in prison.
When I had read that line first, I thought she had some valid reason to kill the children like in one of the Malayalam Flims I watched long back. In the film I am talking about, the lead character kills two teenage girls because he does not want them to end up in the streets like their elder sister. Or like in one of the stories I have heard about a mother during the First World War, who suffocated her baby boy to death because he was crying and she wanted to save the lives of hundreds of people who were running away in the middle of a rainy night from soldiers who were after them. Here, Rekha’s only reason was “I didn’t want them Accused: Rekha [Photo from PA] to get hurt like I did. Jeff hurt me so much I cannot explain.” In other words, she killed her daughters because she could not handle her life and run it the way she wanted to.

Murdered: Davina and Jasmine 41 year old Rekha Kumari Baker was a waitress. Her marriage with 44 year old David Baker was not successful and they had a divorce. Her life with long term lover Jeff Powell was not successful either and he ditched her. And she had to quit her waitress job after a dispute with her employer. She was obviously angry with the world. On June 13, 2007, as the girls were sleeping at her home in Stretham, Cambridgeshire, England, she stabbed them to death. She stabbed Davina 37 times and Jasmine 29 times. She was sentenced to 33 years in prison, on September 22, 2009. She will not be considered for parole till 2040, according to the sentence.
She deserves it. However, how do you think a single mother of two teenage girls, spited by the two men in her life, with no job, can handle things level-headed? What made Rekha conclude her note, saying: "My kids will not be a burden to anyone anymore."? Davina was arrested once for stealing and fighting. Both Jasmine and Davina used to drink and smoke. Gossip also goes that one of the girls attempted suicide and one of them had an eating disorder. Rekha was often called to Davina’s school for meetings to discuss her daughter's misdemeanour. It was during one such meeting she told her daughter: “I wish you were dead!”
The local government of Cambridgeshire has ordered a case review. They will study how and why the Social Welfare Organizations of that area failed to help Rekha and her daughters. Even I think about this as the failure of the society and not just the failure of an individual called Rekha. Some of you may say this happened largely because of the way western culture functions and understands the idea of family as a social institution. But I think this is actually because the welfare system in place has failed.
Some of you may say, this happened in England and why should we ever bother! Get shocked for a while and get on with life, is that what you are thinking? Let me tell you, something of this sort could be happening in India very soon. I am not implying that Indian Mothers have never killed their children. But those are mothers who killed their illegitimate babies, right after child birth. And I am told in certain States in India, female infants are murdered simply because they are female. Rekha’s case is much more serious than that. She had a legitimate family and we are talking about a mother killing two teenage girls to take revenge on the society. It reflects how lack of social security nets can affect human beings and families. Even we are ignoring the ‘social safety nets’ that a Welfare State must provide. And when it happens, may be, we won’t even think on what-went-wrong-with-social-welfare line sometimes. From where I can see it, our Social Welfare is limited to subsidies, reservations and freebies. I think it is time we think about other social welfare systems and put them in place.