On Feb 5th 2008, my daughter, Ananda Lila Salter, left her body in Vrindavan after being shot by a stalker who had raped her and then shot her three times in the head before killing himself.
He was known to be a drunkard and also had terrorised others with this weapon before, which was not registered to him, yet nothing was done.
He had harassed my daughter since she was thirteen, when she mistakenly and innocently paid him some regard. She realised what he was like and had been trying to shake his advances ever since.
He was evelen years her senior and very clever to make sure that he hid from her two brothers, her father and me, who were protecting her.
He often made threats against her family and put her in a fearful state whenever he would was around. She and we knew well that we had nowhere to turn here for protection, as when we had previously tried, the results were disastrous.
We thought that he had been ‘gotten rid of’ two years ago when we had taken her out of India for some time to stop his unwanted advances.
But he just appeared again out of nowhere with tragic results.
This was not the first tragedy we have experienced in the last few years, but it was certainly the most shattering. We have been in Vrindavan for a good part of the last twenty years, and we consider it our home. Lila was a lover of Vrindavan and India in general and the culture here. She was very sweet and pious. The harsh reality is that this type of thing is going on here almost daily, but since she was a foreigner, it was paid scant attention. I am sure that this will continue to happen unless something is done.
Vrindavan is considered non different from the original abode of Lord Sri Krishna in the spiritual realm. The spiritual benefits of visiting even for a day are enormous.
Unfortunately, the situation is very grim. Instead of it being a place of shanti (peace) where people can relish Krishna's pastimes and the beautiful temples, Vrindavan has become a dangerous place where young thugs (usually drunk) roam freely with weapons and terrorise pilgrims, Indian and foreign alike.
The law and order is very inadequate for the number of tourists, and police corruption is absolutely rife. The police who are not corrupt are themselves powerless and bullied by people who have so-called connections, and will have them transferred to some hellish place if they carry out the law. They also have families to protect, so why should they put their lives and family security on the line?
Almost everyone I know has a similar story to tell, but most are too terrified to speak up. The foreign devotees love it here so much that they never want to leave. They have abandoned their comfortable lives in the West to embrace the spirituality and culture here. Having sacrificed so much, they are often passionate about Vrindavan and India.
But they live in fear that they will be black-listed and prevented from coming back to India if they speak out against the atrocities committed here. This has happened to many of them, who were faultless, so this fear is very real and keeps them very nicely in check.
The Indians can't speak up even if they are very wealthy, as they have sons who could be murdered very easily if they open their mouths. Or they themselves can be shot, as happened recently to one Loi Bazaar shop owner, who was shot by two youths on a motorbike as he walked home right in the bazaar (the same bazaar we all walk in frequently.)
I was also scared, and my child was still murdered. I feel that I was wrong and should have stood up before. Why should we sit back? Srila Prabhupada never did. He would be pleased if we serve Vrindavan in this way. It is not simply a mundane issue; it is the right thing to do.
This is our spiritual master's home, and therefore it is also ours. Is it not our duty to protect our home?
We must find out how we can bring about a positive change to Vrindavan so it can become a peaceful and safe place frequented by Indians and worldwide tourists.
To begin with, we need to appeal to the Government of India. This should be done without defaming or offending this culture and country that we love, but at the same time with force and internationally so it is spotlighted, as that is the only action that I have seen work here. What is kept in the dark stays in the dark in this country.
I invite to join me in this effort.
Susan Manning (Subhangi Devi Dasi)