With cases of juvenile crime making headlines, there has been a renewed attention on the efficacy of the juvenile justice system in India. Children in these homes are sent for the purpose of reforming and rehabilitating them back to society. Often circumstances in these homes don’t serve their desired outcomes, pushing children back into the life of crime. Crumbling infrastructure, dilapidated standards of hygiene, sub-standard food and clothing, these facilities escape inspection, and there is no monitoring of the conditions in which the children live. With poor time tables, lack of constructive activities .. children in these settings have nothing to do with their time. Understaffed and overcrowded, juvenile homes are hell holes rather than reform centres, where children are also extremely vulnerable to abuse. With almost no counselling, therapeutic interventions or vocational training, children have little hope for a life after crime. Here are stories of 6 children living in a juvenile home, that reiterate why they need more than just an amendment to the law.
I am a human, a person just like all of you who has two hands, two feet and a nose. I committed a crime, not by choice…but due to my circumstances. I am a 14 year old boy who doesn’t have a name. Here I am better known as ‘Number 128’. That’s my registration number, you see. I have been here for some time now… My family no longer wishes to be associated with me…after what I did. I killed my father…the very person who brought me into this world. But, he never treated me like a son. I was merely an outlet for his frustrations… he would thrash me, burn me and sometimes sexually abuse me. One day when I could not bare it anymore, in the heat of the moment, I stabbed him with the blade that he was using to slit my wrist. I know I have committed a crime, but I am not a criminal. The judge decided my fate under the IPC Article 302. That day, I stopped being my mother’s son too. The love in her eyes was now replaced with resentment and fury.
I come from a poor home. My father is a driver and he only earns enough money that can suffice for our essentials. I was a bright student at school that got me a scholarship to study at the best school in town, with the rich kids. All my friends can afford expensive cars, clothes and meals at fancy restaurants…but I was never that lucky. Even I wanted to be one of them, and I was tired of them bullying me anyway. I expressed my desire to own a bike, but my father rejected it. But, I was determined to have my own bike…nothing could stop me. That’s when I planned a robbery. I decided that I would steal my neighbour’s bike and resell it. Whatever money I got in exchange I would used to buy a new bike. Nothing went as planned and I was caught. Until yesterday I was a free bird who would go anywhere he liked, but everything changed in the last 24 hours. At 15 years, I don’t want to be here. But due to my mistakes, I am paying a heavy price.
I have committed a murder and I’m serving my sentence under Article 302. A few months ago, I killed my sister while I was under the influence of alcohol, because she refused to get intimate with me. My mother and father have abandoned me after this incident and I haven’t seen them for 5 months. It all just happened in that moment… I wasn’t sure of what I was doing and why. I cannot change what I did, but I wont let it happen again.
I am 12 years old and I have been brought to this home for attempt to rape. Sheila and I went to the same school and I found her very beautiful to look at. I always had a soft corner for her and I made sure that she knew about it. I expected her to say that she likes me too but her response was the opposite of what I thought. I was very unhappy and angry that she rejected me. One day after school, I followed her while she walked home on a deserted road, grabbed her from behind and molested her. I could have done much worse had a man in his forties not arrived in time. I was handed over to the police and beaten up.
Every person has the right to be happy and be happy with the one he loves. I made a choice and so did she. I don’t want to reveal her name. We are both in love. Well now maybe ‘were in love’. She would come to the field with her mother and I would be hanging there with my friends. We saw each other and fell in love. We were both under age, but we knew our families would never let us be together, so we decided to elope and get married. Soon after, a man saw us getting intimate in the fields and reported us. Our families got involved and before I knew it, I was charged for attempt to rape. I don’t know whether I should blame her or not. Well all of this doesn’t even matter now. What matters is that my future is ruined.
If anyone else were in my place, they would have done the same thing. What does anyone expect me to do when I am starving? I am 12 years old and I have two younger sisters. One is nine and the other one is five. When I see their helpless expressions and tired faces, all the regrets I have fade away. I may still be able to starve but I will do whatever it takes to make sure my sisters don’t sleep hungry. Tell me, wouldn’t everyone care most about filling their stomachs?