AROUND 6.30 pm last Thursday, two workers were digging up a small portion of a muddy field at the Bareilly cremation ground to bury an infant who had died minutes after birth. The infant’s parents, a trader and his wife, looked on. About three feet down, they came across a cloth bundle. What happened next made them freeze in fear.
As they threw the packet away, they heard a faint cry from inside. One worker fled from the spot, the other ran to call the watchman. Gathering courage, the worker and the watchman opened the bag. Inside was an earthen pot, and inside the pot was a baby girl — she was alive.
A week later, no one knows who her parents are but doctors say she is on a slow path to recovery.
“Had she been found a few hours later, the dehydration could have been fatal,” says Dr Ravi Khanna, a paediatrician who is treating the infant at New Born Child and Critical Care Centre, which he runs.
The infant weighed merely 1.2 kg when she was found and has gained 65 grams since then. Her blood platelets count had dropped to 10,000, alarmingly less than the average prescribed number, which ranges between 1.5 lakh to 4 lakh. Due to exposure, she was also down with a bacterial infection and is being given antibiotics. Her milk consumption has gone up from 5 gm to 25 gm.
“Her breathing has regularised. We are making all efforts to assist her in recovery,” says Khanna.
According to local officials, the infant was about 4-5 days old when she was buried alive. She was initially admitted in the women’s wing of the District Hospital for 30 hours before being transferred to Khanna’s hospital. Doctors say the newborn’s brown fat regulated her body temperature and helped her survive in the pit.
“The motive of female infanticide has not been ruled out. We have several teams trying to find the parents. It is also possible that the child was abandoned by a single mother. But the fact that the infant was buried shows the accused wanted to kill her,” says Abhinandan, SP City Bareilly. The police have registered an FIR against unknown accused under sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 317 (exposure of child under the age of 12).
The dramatic discovery by workers and the couple Hitesh Sirohi and Vaishali, who had gone to bury their infant, has also got the town buzzing.
Residents say the area does not have a boundary wall, making it difficult to track people coming and leaving. The local MLA, who is footing the bill for the baby’s treatment, compares her to Ramayan’s Sita because “she emerged from the ground after her agni-pariksha (trial by fire)”.
“This is nothing but chance that we went to bury our own child and another was saved,” says Vaishali, who is a police SI.
“She is a divine child who survived this ordeal. She is a goddess herself. I am bearing her medical expenses and will make sure she is educated well,” says Rajesh Mishra, the BJP MLA.
Back at the cremation ground, 55-year-old watchman Babu Ram remembers the moments when he held the baby in his arms, trying to calm her.
“I had completed an hour of my shift at the shamshan ghat when one of the workers ran to me for help. We found the baby inside the pot, wrinkled and frightened. She was wearing an oversized banyan and pyjama, and breathing softly,” he says.