A society in the throes of a moral crisis

File photo used for representational purpose File photo used for representational purpose

Seventy-five years old Jorimon died last Friday morning in her hospital bed at the Dinajpur M. Abdur Rahim Medical College Hospital. She was found groaning in a gunnysack dumped near the boundary wall of the hospital about a month ago (on December 4). It was due to the kindness of a social worker of Dinajpur, Afsana Afroze, that the hapless woman at least got some human treatment before she breathed her last. Otherwise, she could be found in a worse condition like a dead animal on the roadside. Afsana Afroze runs an NGO named Dinajpur Samaj Kalyan Sangstha. According to reports, being informed of the woman's whereabouts over a telephone call from a person who identified himself as Hazrat Ali, Ms Afsana discovered the terribly emaciated and half dead woman from the place as told by the caller and arranged her treatment at the medicine ward of the hospital.

But what is so special about Jorimon, who was abandoned even by her own people, that her death news should get any importance and that too at the beginning of a new year when the newspaper columns usually like to carry stories of famous men or women or the circumstances under which they passed their last days if they died in the past year? Well, in our media-dominated culture an important person is usually someone who has money and power or can tell big lies, or has a large following often for the wrong reason. Jorimon had nothing of that. On the contrary, she was a most neglected person of her family and community. What a tragedy that, as she told--- though after much persuasion, the social workers who brought her to the hospital later that her grownup children took her to a nearby mango grove, put her into a sack and then threw her away like garbage.

Perhaps, they were kind enough not to strangle the old woman before discarding her near the hospital. Is it not an instance of extreme cruelty to an old person whose only offence perhaps was that she was too old to fend for herself? She had a home where she raised her children and, of course, she did so with great care and affection as every mother does. She did everything selflessly as is the way with our mothers in the poverty-stricken families in the countryside. Mothers abandoned by their husbands or close relatives doing hard work as farmhands or breaking stones or cutting earth and carrying those in basket on their heads at different worksites or going from door to door asking for help to feed their children is a common sight in cities and villages of Bangladesh. These women are ready to make any sacrifice only to see that their children orphaned or simply deserted by their father are provided with food, clothes, medical care when sick and if possible, a shelter to rest at night. These mothers often pass their days half-fed or even without food so that their children may not starve. Jorimon, though the actual story of her life is still not known as she kept it to herself till the last moment of her life, might be like one of those single, poor, struggling mothers. Or she might have even been better off with a family, a house and landed property. Whatever the case, her last days speak volumes for her status in the family that she once owned. Clearly, she became so big a burden on her family that her adult children felt no qualms about treating her like an animal at the fag end of her life. She was subjected to such inhumane treatment when she was supposed to get the utmost attention, respect and care as a mother, as a very senior member of the family. But parents who sacrificed everything for bringing their children up are not looked upon as important people. The so-called famous people who often grab media headlines without doing anything comparable to what the likes of Jorimon did for their families. But they deserve the highest attention from society and the media.

Afsana Afroze, the social worker of Dinajpur who rescued abandoned Jorimon from the unspeakable condition she (Jorimo) was in, laid stress on the laws such as the 'Maintenance of Parents Act' enacted in 2013, which makes it for offence for income-earning sons who ignore their parents. Certainly, Jorimon's sons or other close relatives responsible for the cruelty done to her should get the justice they deserve as early as possible. Having said that it has also to be kept in mind that law alone is not enough to handle an issue that is basically a social and a moral one. When society itself is getting unresponsive to the needs of its senior members, how much can a mere law do to protect them? If guilty conscience over the indifference, disrespect and even the cruelty being thus shown towards the senior members of society is in such short supply among the younger generation, then alongside the law, it also makes it imperative for entire society to act. In fact, nothing short of a community movement inspired by a moral reawakening would be required to restore society's sense of responsibility and duty towards its older members.

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