When the world’s media began reporting the story of the ‘Mowgli girl’, the version of events that dominated the headlines was that she’d been living with monkeys for so long that she had become completely feral. Things have changed since then. If anything, the story has grown darker still.
Since the child was moved to hospital, she has improved rapidly. She can now walk erect and eat foods typical of a human diet. Doctors believe that the girl has mental and physical disabilities, and that, far from being raised by animals, she was abandoned relatively recently by her family in the Katarniaghat Wildlife Reserve.
‘When she was found, she was behaving violently. She had no toilet habits, no communication. So it was taken that she had been living in the jungle for a long time,’ Ankur Lal, chief medical officer for Bahraich district said to the Guardian. ‘Initially she was crawling but now she is walking normally – so she hasn’t been in the jungle since birth,’ he added.
DK Singh, chief medical officer of the hospital where the girl is being treated, concurred. ‘In India, people do not prefer a female child and she is mentally not sound,’ he said. ‘So all the more evidence she was left there.’
District chief forestry officer JP Singh said that the girl was actually found on a roadside near the forest, not deep inside the jungle. And although there were monkeys in her vicinity, she was not found ‘living with monkeys’ as initial reports suggested.
‘If she was living with monkeys it would have been for a few days only, not for a long time. The forest is closely monitored by rangers and CCTV, and it was unlikely she could have survived in the wilderness for long without being spotted,’ he added.
Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research in New Delhi agrees with this new version of events. ‘The truth of the matter is her family didn’t want to look after her,’ she said. ‘Some families value girls less than boys. They would rather get rid of the girl than spend money on her. It is a lot more responsibility because of the social environment we live in.’