Little Rohit (name changed) can’t comprehend why he is not allowed to play with other kids in the locality.

ll that he can do is watch them from afar. He can’t fathom why his neighbours refuse his entry into their homes when other children gather there to watch a television reality show of little singers. He goes to school, but even there, the children are not sure of they should talk to him. At times, the six-year-old bursts into tears, unable to understand why everyone in the neighbourhood shuns him.  It will be a while till Rohit learns the term ‘ostracism’ and that he has been subject to the social boycott for no fault of his. He was only three when his father, Ram Shankar Das (name changed), a van-rickshaw puller living at Bhabla railway colony ony the Sealdah-Hasnabad section in North 24-Parganas, was diagnosed with AIDS while being treated for tuberculosis in 2011.

Ostracized by villagers, 5 children forced to live in graveyard after parents die of AIDS

On learning that he had AIDS, Ram’s wife left for her parents’ home in Hingalganj. She not only feared she would also contract HIV, but was also terrified of being ostracized by her once-friendly neighbours. Her fears weren’t unfounded. “When people of the area learnt that Ram had AIDS, they boycotted the entire family. Perhaps, Rohit’s mother was right to leave. But how could she abandon her son?” wondered Purnima Das, one of the few in the locality who is concerned about the plight of the boy.

Ram initially tried to persuade his wife to return, but when she refused, he reportedly suggested Rohit should also live with her in Hingalganj. She, however, apparently refused to have the boy around. “But like any child, Rohit needs his mother,” he said.  Ram’s 60-year-old mother now takes care of Rohit, and also works as a domestic help for a living. In fact, the elderly woman is the sole earning member for the family of three as Ram cannot work for two reasons: His poor health and the social boycott.

Ram currently visits a government hospital in Kolkata for medication but his health has reportedly been deteriorating rapidly

Of late, he has started experiencing excruciating pain in his hands and legs. “I haven’t been able to earn a single penny for a year as no one would give me a job. Also, my poor health does not allow me to exert myself. I am now counting my days. My only worry is Rohit’s future,” he said.  Anarul Haque, a vaccine administer at Basirhat hospital, pointed out the family’s misery had been compounded by the neighbours’ inhuman treatment. “Awareness campaigns and sensitization programmes are conducted regularly in which people are told that HIV can only spread through body fluids and not through general contact. But people continue to treat HIV patients and their families like criminals,” he fumed.

(Originally published in the Times of India | Images for representational purpose only)

Image Source: India Times

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