The Needle and the Damage Done

Death and decay in a Delhi neighbourhood where chemists serve as drug dealers

01 April 2011
An addict makes one of his daily drug purchases at a pharmacy.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ENRICO FABIAN
An addict makes one of his daily drug purchases at a pharmacy.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ENRICO FABIAN

DHARMINDER WAS JUST 17 YEARS OLD when his half-naked body was found one morning in an alley near Jahangirpuri station, the northern terminus of the Delhi Metro’s yellow line. The teen’s body was slung onto a vegetable cart and covered with a blanket that left his bare toes exposed as he was wheeled down the main road leading from the Metro station to the morgue.

Dharminder’s official autopsy from Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial Hospital describes various external injuries to his ribs, chest, abdomen and shoulders, caused by a “blunt” implement. On arrival, he was wearing “pants only, soiled with faecal matter”.  The document guesses his age incorrectly at 18 or 19, but it doesn’t matter. Dharminder was a junkie, and the locals disparage junkies—they steal, they carry disease; they’re untouchable beyond caste.

No one is exactly sure how he expired, but 23-year-old Nikhil Kumar, who works in a nearby metal-cutting shop, believes Dharminder was beaten to death by three other junkies the night before his body was discovered. Whether it was for the drugs or money he may have been hoarding, no one willing to talk knows for certain.

Dave Besseling  was the Senior Copy Editor at The Caravan.

Keywords: Delhi Drugs Jahangirpuri chemists addicts Metro junkie AIDS IDU syringe
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