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December 29, 1997


A Mother's Anguish

Neelam Krishnamoorthy
Neelam Krishnamoorthy is AVUT's founder and spokesperson.

"For us life came to a standstill on June 13. It just came to a standstill.

Our children were pretty grown-up -- Unnati had just passed the 12th and my son was 13. We were like friends. We used to sit and discuss anything and everything under the sun.

They were intelligent kids and we had told them everything. We felt they should be able to take care of themselves if anything happened to us. We never realised it would be us who have to stay back and mourn. Tomorrow, if we have an accident and die, nobody will even know. Somebody will cremate us as unidentified bodies. We have nobody in this world, believe me, nobody.

This house was full of laughter and fun. Now look at it, it is four walls and the two of us. And we sit here for three hours, four hours, without even exchanging a word. Not even looking at each other. It never happened to be like this.

We get up in the morning by 4.30 or 5. But we don't go out of the bedroom till 8.30 or 9. Why should we? It is not as we have to help the children prepare for the school anymore.
Ujjwal and Unnati Krishamoorthy
Ujjwal and Unnati
And we don't have the courage to see children all over going to school. It's a terrible feeling.

We don't feel like work anymore. We don't need money. We don't have our children to educate, we don't have anything to look forward to. So what do we need money for? I tell you, money doesn't mean anything to us. They (the authorities) can give us billions and millions and trillions of dollars. But it means toilet paper to us. There is no price for our children. They didn't need to die. They could have been saved if the entire system hadn't collapsed.

We are celebrating 50 years of Independence! For what? We don't even have the basic right to life? It is absolutely ridiculous! I am ashamed to be an Indian, I am really ashamed! Are we living in a medieval country where nothing is available? People died of asphyxiation, not burns. The ambulances come in, but there is no oxygen. The fire engines come in, but the sirens are not working. They can't move fast because the roads are clogged and the Delhi police haven't bothered to clear it. They were more interested in going inside and snatching the jewellery of the people who were dying. Taking their wallets, removing their earrings, all the valuables. It is inhuman,

At least I am happy they left the clothes on my kids. Unnati had a bruise around her neck. And her earlobes were bleeding when somebody ripped off her earrings. Maybe she was strangulated. Maybe many died when somebody pulled their chains.

Ujjwal Krishamoorthy
Ujjwal Krishamoorthy
We want to have the people behind all this punished. That is our only ambition, our only obsession -- you can call it mania if you want. If we can't do that much for our kids, we are not fit to be their parents.

Why did the accident occur in the first place? Because, the Uphaar management had flouted all norms. That day, they didn't even have a licence to run the theatre. The Delhi lieutenant governor had cancelled it in 1983. In the last 13 years, they had been functioning on temporary permits. And on June 13, even that had expired.

Then why did they run the show? How did they get the no objection certificate, despite violating all possible clauses in the Delhi Cinematograph Act? The basement which was meant as a car park area had been let out for an office, the exits and staircases from the balcony blocked and rented out, the exit lights were not working, there was no public address system. And still they were given the NOC from the fire department and the electricity board! How? They bought it, they bribed people.

These people should be made answerable for their actions. All the government agencies involved were working hand in hand. They had a nexus. Otherwise, they couldn't have been running the cinema.

Now, the only activity we are involved is the AVUT. We begin our day with the association, and we end our day with it. What we feel, nobody else can share. We are like one big family. Five months ago, we were all strangers. Circumstances forced us to be together. And now, united we stand.

Unnati Krishamoorthy
Unnati Krishamoorthy
It is not for us we are fighting. We cannot get our children back. It is for the future generation, the public, the society that we are fighting. The money we have asked, the Rs 1 billion, it is not for ourselves. It is to set up a centralised accident and trauma services centre in Delhi. Do you know we don't have one here?

We've got to beat them and, for that, we've got to stand together. All of us know that. Nobody should ever again lose their children so, nobody their wives, their parents. We want to make sure that a tragedy of this kind never occurs again. Ever."

The Anatomy Of The Tragedy

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