The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Calcutta, Feb. 24: Street dogs fed on an abandoned newborn baby this morning ' and it seems some people watched it happen.

Police arrived to find the remains.

An eyewitness said around 11 am, the baby was seen lying abandoned in a narrow lane of Rabindrapally at Baguiati, part of the city's rapidly-developing urban sprawl on either side of the road to the airport.

The eyewitness, an old lady who watched the scene from her window, spoke on condition of anonymity. She said when she saw the dogs ' there were three ' converge on the baby, she felt sick and went inside, shutting the world out.

Until the post-mortem of the remains is done, it cannot be said if the baby was left in the lane dead or alive. But the lady claimed she saw 'the left hand of the baby move' from her window that is five to six feet away from the spot.

No one, however, heard the baby cry, presuming it was dead.

'We don't know whether the baby was dead or alive at the time the dogs attacked it,' said Praveen Kumar, superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas.

Officers from the local Baguiati police station reached the place around noon. 'We got a telephone call and rushed to the spot,' said an officer.

'That many people watched the scene is certain. Otherwise, how could we be informed of the incident' wondered Kumar.

The place of the incident is a lane that shoots off a busy connector between Rajarhat Road and Rabindrapally, which is on the right side of VIP Road while going towards the airport and behind the local landmark Big Bazar.

The eight-foot-wide lane is hemmed in by mostly multistoreyed buildings. There is also a ground-floor tutorial ' open 8 am to 9 pm ' near the spot where the baby was left.

One of the teachers there said he had heard dogs bark and it seemed they were fighting with each other. When he came out he saw the remains of the baby.

Most residents have taken shelter inside a cocoon of silence about the incident. Only the old would admit seeing it happen. 'I watched from the rooftop,' said A. Das. Asked why he did not try to rescue the baby, he said: 'I am 70 years old and the scene made me sick. There were lots of young people watching. Ask them why they didn't help the baby.'

Two young men of the area said they had only heard about the incident from someone else. A third narrated what had happened and said had he been around he would have tried to rescue the baby.

Academics who study social behaviour said the urban mentality shuns risks, unwilling to invite problems for themselves.

Prasanta Ray, former head of the sociology department, Presidency College, said: 'This kind of behaviour is not peculiar to Calcutta and our times. But this does not necessarily mean Calcuttans are generally inhuman, it is just that in this case for some people the 'risk factor' outweighed a more reasoned decision.'

Swapan Paramanik, professor of sociology at Calcutta University who has just been appointed vice-chancellor of Vidyasagar University, agreed but warned that 'this is a growing trend in Calcutta, not much noticed earlier'.

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