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Delhi Daryaganj Mother Locks Up, Starves Mentally Challenged Daughter

Delhi's tabloid Mail Today reported on Saturday how police along with a social worker rescused a 28-year-old woman Shaista from solitary confinement, where she had not got a morsel of food for the last three
PTI September 18, 2010 10:58 IST
PTI
Delhi's tabloid Mail Today reported on Saturday how police along with a social worker rescused a 28-year-old woman Shaista from solitary confinement, where she had not got a morsel of food for the last three days.

Friday was no ordinary day for Shaista. Early in the morning, the 28- year- old woman experienced her first human touch in months as she was rescued from a long spell of solitary confinement in a cramped attic.

Over the past year and a half, her world had shrunk to the four walls of this 7x7- foot room. She ate and slept here, and even used it as a toilet.

Apparently, Shaista's poor mental state made her family resort to such an extreme measure. Her mother, three brothers and two sisters continue to lead normal lives just a floor below in the four- storeyed building in central Delhi's Daryaganj area.

The mission to end Shaista's ordeal began around 8.30 am when a team of 10 personnel of the Delhi Police reached the house in Gali Tucha Dakhniray.

The police were accompanied by Shrirupa Mitra Chaudhury, the chairperson of rehabilitation centre Sudinalay.

They had specific information about a “ young girl” being locked up in a top- floor room. The surprise visit allowed them easy access and they reached the fourth floor without encountering any resistance. When the team members called out the woman's name, a scrawny hand waved out to them from a narrow window.

“ It took us some effort to open the rusted lock,” Chaudhury said. As the doors were pushed open, an emaciated Shaista cowered in fear. “ The stench was unbearable. She'd excreted and urinated all over the floor of the cell. She was pale and severely dehydrated,” Chaudhury added.

After the initial shock of having to face so many strangers, Shaista tried to stand up and come out.

But all skin and bones, she simply collapsed in a heap. The police then assisted Shaista to her feet, making her sit on a chair.

“ It was an atrocious sight. She wouldn't have survived for more than two weeks in that cubbyhole.

She was frail, shivering, malnourished and dehydrated,” a senior police officer from the Daryaganj police station said.

Chaudhury later found that Shaista hadn't been given any food for the last three days. “ I have seen many such cases, and in my assessment she could have died in another two days because of hunger and thirst,” she said.

As the police personnel tried to bring Shaista down from the fourth floor, her widowed mother and siblings trooped up. “ They were shocked to see us and wanted to know what we were doing to ‘ their' Shaista,” Chaudhury said. “ When they were informed about the rescue operation, Shaista's mother went on the defensive. She told the police that this was the only way they could handle her,” she added.

“ Shaista's mother Akhtar Jehan told us that she had a 15- year history of mental illness and had even run away from home about two years ago. This prompted them to lock her up in the room some 18 months back,” a senior police officer said.

The family members produced documents pertaining to her previous treatment at the Institute of Human Behavioural and Allied Sciences ( IHBAS) in Shahdara. But she is believed to have received no medical care for many years. Jehan claimed it had become difficult to afford the treatment since the death of her first husband, Mohammad Shahid Khan.

What Shaista's family, however, could not convincingly explain was the shocking state in which she was kept. “ Not only was there excreta and urine all over the cell- sized room, she hadn't had a bath for at least two- three months. There were bottles of water and small, oily plastic packets littered all over the room. She was being given frugal helpings of food in these polybags,” Chaudhury said.

Despite protests by the family members, the police took away Shaista and admitted her to IHBAS under section 19 of the Mental Health Act. Till Friday evening, Shaista hadn't made a statement. “ Since she is not in a state to speak, we will file an application with the magistrate and follow the court's directions,” DCP, central, Jaspal Singh said.

A starved Shaista wasn't even able to stand up. She hadn't eaten a morsel for three days.