The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cops shop as kids cower
- Post-trauma, balm futile

Sabrina (name changed), a chirpy four-year-old, has hardly uttered a word or had a proper meal since walking home from Mahadevi Birla Girls High School on Wednesday afternoon.

“We had to walk through riot-ravaged Park Circus. She saw a violent mob from close quarters,” says Sabrina’s mother. “By the time we reached our home, she was in a state of shock.”

Forty-eight hours have passed, but Sabrina has not regained her voice or her appetite. She was taken to a psychologist on Friday, who said there are many other schoolchildren battling the trauma of Wednesday’s violence.

“A sudden exposure to such an incident generates phobia in children, which can have a long-term effect,” warns psychologist Mahua Ghosh.

The scar on Debangshu (name changed), a five-year-old student of La Martiniere, is evident from the one line he keeps repeating since Wednesday evening: “Jano to gari ta kemon kore jolchhilo (You know how the car was burning)!” Debangshu and his parents were caught in the chaos near Bridge No. 4, where the boy saw a car ablaze.

Psychologist Atashi Gupta says “the effects of the trauma the students went through on Wednesday will linger for some time but the intensity of the effect will differ from child to child”.

Post-trauma symptoms are clear in Raktim (name changed), a Class VIII student of Calcutta Boys School, and Moumi (name changed), a Class VI student of St Augustine Day School. Raktim was forced to run for cover and take shelter in a house on Wednesday. He has not slept well the past two nights. Moumi is reluctant to go back to school after seeing brickbats and bottles flying into the compound.

“We have asked our teachers to explain to the children what exactly happened on Wednesday. We also want to train students on how to protect themselves in such a situation,” said Terence Ireland, the principal of St James School.

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