>Karwan Bazar’s midnight children

>SILENT tears were rolling down Popy’s cheeks. In the darkness, you could only see the glistening lines. Her 12-year-old elder brother Shakil, tied to a bamboo pole, looked bewildered. Night egged on at Karwan Bazar vegetables depot. No-one even bothers to throw a glance at whatever was going on there.
“He’s innocent,” the eight-year-old girl protested weakly. “He did not steal vegetables.”
In the twilight existence of the Karwan Bazar kids, they were just picking up whatever vegetables were littered around, she claimed. Just the scavengers. Not like the other children — one would pause a minute before calling them ‘thieves’ — who prowl the market by night, slash open sacks and take out whatever they can grab — vegetables, onions, garlic — you name it.

Shakil is not one of these ‘thieves’ — their number might be 400 or even higher. But Nasima (not real name) is one for real. On Wednesday night, her luck was not that good — she got caught while slashing open a gunnysack.
She did not receive any beating. But that did not mean she did not have to pay for her ‘sins’. Several male hands groped for her body, molesting her.
She did not protest. She just bore it. The faces of rickshaw-van-pullers and coolies looked grotesque in the shadows.

“Beasts! How happy they are to catch a girl thief!” she spitted on the ground in disgust as they let her go.
From a rickety room atop a vegetable depot, a thin screaming voice came. A child was squealing in terror. A 10-year-old boy was being punished there for stealing vegetables from a truck, the coolies said.

“The vegetables trader is molesting the kid,” one of them commented, pulling a blank look.
Though Shakil, Nasima and the unnamed 10-year-old boy are well aware of the hazards of life at Karwan Bazar, they won’t quit this ‘occupation’.

Of the 400 thieves, 80 percent are under 12 and 40 percent are girls. Most of them live on footpaths and slums in Mirpur, Kafrul, Tejgaon Railway Station, Begunbari and Tongi. Some of them are drug addicts and homeless people from different parts of Dhaka.
(Full story)


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