Why the “Mowgli” girl case should sadden, and not fascinate us

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have heard of the “Mowgli” girl, a child believed to be aged between eight and twelve, who was recently discovered by forest authorities in the the forest of the Katarniaghat wildlife sanctuary, UP.

Villagers apparently found the girl naked, her hair matted, nails claw-like, with a troop of monkeys that seemed like her family. The moniker has stuck, and although it may take most of us back to the delightful Rudyard Kiplling tale of a young boy brought up by wolves, in this case is sadder than many of us would like to admit.

While initial reports made her sound interestingly bizarre — the girl who is scared of humans, can’t understand human language, doesn’t speak and behaves like monkeys — recent reports claim Ehsaas (as she has now been named) may be physically and mentally disabled, and therefore it’s likely that she was abandoned by her family.

It doesn’t end there. News publications are carrying reports that claim Ehsaas “screeched” and acted “aggressively” when forest officials tried to rescue her, suggesting that she had become “like an animal”. The truth is, as one forest official clarified, she wasn’t living with the animals for years but only a few days. This is what district chief forestry JP Singh said: ““I think the family members of this girl had been aware that she is not able to speak, and they may have abandoned her near the forest road,” he said. “If she was living with monkeys it would have been for a few days only, not for a long time.”

Even more surprising is this report where officials said “she was neither naked nor were there any monkeys”.

More and more facts that just point towards one truth: Girl child abandonment. This isn’t the first time a girl child has been probably abandoned for, well, being a girl. Ehsaas was later taken in by an Lucknow-based NGO that shelters mentally-ill children. A few days after that, a man claiming to be her uncle, Bhullan Ali, said she was his niece and that he and her father, Ramzan Ali, a labourer, were searching for her since she went missing. The NGO has refused any further access until he returns with proof. Whether it was a case of abandonment or a genuine case of a missing child, only time will tell. But one thing is for sure, in a world where parents are the first people a child trusts to keep him or her safe, this story should sadden and outrage us, not fascinate us. This story isn’t a “mystery”, it’s a tragedy, and one that is all too common in India.