Friday, March 14, 2008


One murder and the whole country has gone 'Scarlett' with embarrassment. Goa has become a very unsafe place and Indian men have become dangerous murderers and rapists.

For the last couple of weeks, no news has gripped Indian media like the rape and murder of a 15 year old British girl, Scarlett Keeling, on a Goa beach. Front page headline and editorials in major newspapers - not tabloids – and prime time non-stop coverage in all TV news channels, repeatedly flashing photographs of Scarlett and visuals of her mother Fiona, are all blaming the police and the deteriorating law and order situation in Goa for the murder of one tourist.

Would all this noise have been made had Scarlett been a non-white? Of course not! This mass fixation with ‘fair and lovely’ is not limited to sellers of fairness creams and those responsible for selecting a coach for the Indian cricket team only. It is worth recalling the latter saga here. See what has happened to Lalchand Rajput after India’s victorious tour of Australia on top its triumph in the T20 World Cup. No praise for him or the fielding and bowling coaches at all. On the contrary, he has been dumped and replaced by South African Gary Kirsten. The credit of winning the Junior World Cup, however, has been quickly given to Dave Whatmore! Recall the heady days when Guru Greg was made the real superstar of the Indian cricket team before he almost destroyed it?

Picture this: A semi clad pretty young girl, tanked with cocaine and alcohol, walks in alone at 3 AM into a drinking shack, without any money. What did she go there for at that hour? What do you thing would most likely happen to her anywhere in the world? Why blame it on Goa? As per media reports, after she entered the bar, she was “pumped” with more cocaine and ecstasy pills by a guy who was manning the bar. After that, she was raped on the beach by two guys who fled in panic on seeing someone approaching. Scarlett, knocked unconscious by the heavy dose of drugs, then died by drowning when the sea reached her with the tide.

Notwithstanding variations to the above sequence of events, it is a sad reflection on the media that other equally disturbing aspects of the case have been almost totally ignored or relegated to inside pages by them in their obsession to run India and Goa down against white skin.

Fiona MacKeown, the mother of Scarlett, was on a six month holiday in India with her boyfriend and her six other younger children. Fiona has nine children from five men, none of whom have ever been involved in their raising. In fact, the identity of the father of one of her children is not known even to her. Fiona has also been lying to the media about their good life back home in England. In reality, she and her kids have been living off state support in a run down caravan, the equivalent of an Indian slum. None of the kids have been to school.

Before Scarlett’s tragic death, Fiona had left her alone in Goa and gone on a three week tour of Karnataka with the rest of the kids. The minor Scarlett was, according to Fiona, sexually active and had a boy friend in England. As per reports in the British press, Fiona’s departure left Scarlett desperate and she took to sleeping with a local boy because it got her food and a roof over her head.

Fiona says that the Goa police are still covering up the investigation and that more people are involved in Scarlett’s murder and rape. She has even alleged that she was offered money to keep quiet about the case which had initially been dismissed by the police as a simple case of drowning. Given the details of her background that have now emerged, it is within the realm of possibility that Fiona would have taken money had it really been offered to her.

As to the involvement of more people in the rape and murder, it is possible that Scarlett's visit to the bar that fateful day was not her first. She may have gone there on earlier occasions too looking for drugs and booze, with only one means of paying for it, a situation possibly exploited by others also. Her untimely death was perhaps an unforeseen and unintended outcome of her craving and helpless loneliness with no money in her pocket.

What happened to Scarlett in Goa could have happened anywhere in the world to a penniless, abandoned child hooked to drugs. Worse happens almost every day to many Indian children, exploited ruthlessly and mercilessly by professional merchants of flesh and death. But their miseries rarely make news, forget headlines. Our fixation with white skin is unending and across the spectrum. Add to it the lure of reporting from the comfort and beauty of Goa and you have the perfect setting for the media to set up camp in full strength.

India does not need to go scarlet over what happened to Scarlett in Goa. When your popular tourist destinations attract mainly the ‘flower people’ and the poor who can’t afford to go anywhere else, such incidents will continue to occur. Had the abandoned Scarlett not died, what do you think she would have been forced to continue doing to keep her stomach full and her mind stoned?

Yes, the guilty must be punished. But there is no need to unfairly keep telling the whole world that Goa is an unsafe place and that Goans are a terrible lot.