It was a night Dominic Damian and his family will not forget.
Four men brandishing sharp machetes burst into our home on 2 February at about 9.35pm and subjected my family and I to 15 minutes of terror.
Agile and well built, as if they had worked out in a gym, they came well prepared – wearing ski masks, long-sleeved shirts and gloves – to violate the security of our home.
The unspeakable horror written on the faces of the victims – including my wife, little children and a guest – was heartbreaking. To witness the victims paralysed and numb in utter shock and helplessness, quivering like leaves, was gut-wrenching. The silent praying, shaking, trembling and crying before the ruthless, cold predators seemed to last an eternity.
It was an unimaginable and unforgettable experience. Some of us received rough treatment, which was painful to witness. I myself received a well-delivered blow to the neck.
Inside me, I was in turmoil, like a volcano seething with molten lava. But rational logic and concern for our safety quelled this inner rage. Faced with raw, naked aggression and violent intimidation, the victims in my home were heroes – they emerged shaken, unscathed and unharmed, losing only possessions but not their lives and limbs.
The haunting questions in the aftermath: Why, how and what causes such brazen lawlessness? What enables young people in the prime of their lives to engage in such foolhardiness? If caught, they would face incarceration in a lonely prison cell, the best years of their lives in contemplative meditation, if not brooding resentment. What a waste of human potential.
The worst-case scenario is to be shot dead and land up on a mortuary slab. But ending up as another statistic does not seem to be a deterrent; the criminals’ unholy attempts to earn money illegally, though traumatic, must be worth the risk for them.
By now, many of us are conversant and well informed about social inequality and injustice. Exhaustive theses and analyses have explored the root causes. So we will not get into this aspect.
Government and police
The security failure in such cases has wide-ranging implications. This failure needs to be thought through carefully.
Neither the police nor the government should expect our lives to be lived behind a never-ending defensive perimeter. Such a siege mentality is unacceptable and divisive; it breeds suspicion of the other. We can’t be cloistered and isolated behind fortress walls.
To be forced, in the name of security, to erect walls, trenches and barbed wire fences is divisive. Gated communities and other such initiatives reflect the abject failure of the security apparatus on which billions have been spent.
The nation must invest in the security of each of our homes. They are after all the starting points where oneness, unity, and harmony are nurtured.
In our case, the response protocol of the police in an emergency situation was not up to expected standards.
Perhaps there needs to be some form of responsibility – eg economic compensation to victims – for such transgressions. If the security and welfare of citizens are compromised by negligence, it means the state and its services have failed. As such, there must be provision for tax reliefs or other creative initiatives.
If you face a situation where your personal security or safety is threatened, consider this:
- If armed intruders are entering, do your best to run out of the home and keep a distance.
- If there are secure rooms in the house that are difficult to break down, barricade yourself in such rooms.
- Send a text message to anyone who will respond immediately. Our police or emergency services may sometimes be too slow to respond and may not grasp the gravity of the situation. So we may have to depend on each other. If such a room is available with whistles and equipped with panic buttons to trigger an alarm, it would keep the intruders away.
- Always keep windows and doors closed. In our case, the front door was left open briefly, allowing the intruders to enter.
If escape is not possible:
- Always comply with reasonable commands or demands no matter how degrading they may seem. Look beyond seniority, status or position. You have a responsibility to protect other victims in your home. If you have to crawl to survive and ensure others survive, do it without reservation or objection.
- Never be attached to material possessions or heirlooms. If there is the slightest threat of physical harm or injury to yourself or those around you, relinquish your belongings. These you can replace – but life and limb are too precious to lose. Those who have given you heirlooms would not want you to lose life and limb in trying to save what they have bequeathed to you.
- Do not resist; instead, assist and respond with haste. If you are slow, you may get assaulted. Remember, the robbers too are in a traumatic ‘profession’ and situation – they want to get out fast.
- Do not raise your voice, provoke them or show any sign of disrespect or contempt towards the perpetrators. They may be under the influence of substances that contribute to their losing all sense and values.
- Always exercise great restraint, keep calm and be polite. Remember, they have trained and psyched themselves up for criminal violence.
- If there is an attempt at serious physical harm, kidnap or rape, then you have no option but to throw caution to the wind and act in self-defence.
In conclusion, the security apparatus needs to be more proactive.