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Thursday, 6 October 2011

Babu - just an ordinary hero

When it was first reported, the story of a man dying on the Paris métro system didn't make much of an impact on headline writers in France.

Photo of Rajinder Singh - "Babu" (snapshot from TF1 news report)

He had apparently been pushed on to the track and been electrocuted.

It's the kind of story you hear about from time to time - one of those news items that probably tends to wash over you as "oh just another story".

Except behind the headline of course was much more, as the daily Le Parisien revealed in a tribute it paid to Rajinder Singh, the man known by his nearest and dearest (and the rest of us now) as "Babu".

The 33-year-old Indian immigrant was reportedly travelling on the métro when he saw a pickpocket try to steal a mobile 'phone from a fellow passenger.

Babu intervened, coming to the woman's assistance , apparently asking the man to "leave her alone."

But a struggle then followed and continued as the train pulled into the next stop.

The two men got off and the pickpocket began punching Babu, finally pushing him off the platform and running away.

Babu was electrocuted.

And there the story might have ended, except for the reaction to a profile of Babu which Le Parisien ran the day after the incident.

It was a simple tribute to a man born in the Punjab region of India who had come to France seven years ago to "be able to work to send money home to his family and give them a better life," as one of his cousins told the newspaper.

Apparently a gentle man, opposed to violence of any sort, Babu was described by one of his friends as "goodness personified".

Babu's family wanted his body returned to India, but couldn't afford it.

Internet messages of support (snapshot from TF1 news report)

Babu's death - one which Le Parisien said left no one indifferent - provoked what TF1 news called "an astounding show of solidarity," with messages on the Internet and his brother-in-law Jean-Louis Lecomte, receiving 'phone calls of support and letters of donation.

On Wednesday a minute's silence was held at the station where Babu had died with the minister of transport, Thierry Mariani, and the minister of culture, Frédéric Mitterrand among those paying homage.

RATP, the public transport operator for the Paris region, has agreed to meet the costs of repatriating Babu's body.

Police have arrested a man they suspect of being the pickpocket who pushed Babu to his death.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well there's one ungrateful person ou there. The woman to whose rescue Babu came. She's disappeared, and didn't show up to pay tribute to him. Shame on her. Hopefully next time, somebody will manage to steal her phone.

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