House of Horrors — Understanding the Factors at Play


Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

27 Feb 2019 – It is reported that a family in Riverside County in USA has tortured and brutally tied down its children and almost starved them to death; it is hard to believe the report whether it is authentic or exaggerated and what was the cause of this brutality. How can parents be so inhuman towards their own children?

There are similar reports of not only torture but even murder of family’s own children from parts of India. Recently a man surrendered to a local police station in a town not too far from Delhi after having killed his six year old son. Why did he commit this heinous act? The man had lost his job and had no money to feed his son who kept crying from hunger. What now? At least now he would not need to hear the child’s wailing cries.

A similar act had been committed some months ago in a village in India by a woman who had two small children and nobody to support them. The children were hungry and there was no food to feed them. Out of desperation the woman threw the tiny babes into the village well. She could not bear to hear their crying. She did not care what happened to her after she was caught by the police.

A gruesome incident has occurred again in a nearby town. Two twins — six year old boys, were kidnapped from the school bus as they were returning home. The kidnappers demanded a huge amount of ransom from the boy’s father who was a rich businessman. The ransom was paid but the twins did not return home. Two days later the twins were found drowned in a nearby pond with their hands tied and their bodies weighed down by some heavy objects so that they would sink in the water and die.

Sociologists and other scholars debate; how can people show such cruel, ruthless attitude towards children? Some blame the economic system where a few people have vast amounts of money and a large number of others are deprived of basic necessities including food for their children and themselves. If a person is poor, deprived and hungry, he or she becomes frustrated and feels helpless at the socio-economic disparities and thereby not able to comprehend what is good, what is evil. Gandhi used to say that for a hungry person, God appears in the form of a roti (bread).

To an extent, this reasoning is valid. But there are other factors that directly or otherwise impinge upon people’s consciousness. An important factor is competing with your peers to outscore or outsmart them. Our parents and to an extent our society encourages us to stand first — in other words to be the leader of a group or a class — not to stand second or tenth or whatever, not to care about others. To become the leader is in itself not undesirable; it is using unfair or immoral means for becoming the leader in order to stand at the top, which is reprehensible. Equally immoral is not to care about others in the society.

The world abounds with violence, terrorism, militarism, wars that lead to lack of harmony, selfishness and absence of moral behaviour and an absence of feeling of sharing and results in otherness. Vasudev kutumbakam, the Vedas suggested that the whole world is a family. Today it is sometimes difficult for the modern urban youth who are busy with their smart phones and digital devices to even feel that they and their old parents are part of the same family.

I may be accused of being negative and ignoring the positive actions of some individuals. Perhaps, but my objective is to present the horrors that are inflicted on this world by some misled individuals and to understand some common factors behind such behaviour. Understanding and a sympathetic attitude is expected to lead to a better, more humane world with greater harmony and goodwill for oneself and for others.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 4 Mar 2019.

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