regular-article-logo Sunday, 23 June 2024

Lost horizons: Editorial on political rivalries scarring children’s minds and destroying their childhoods

Is hatred so strong a power that it sweeps away people’s need to protect their own offspring from it & preserve for them the joy & the peaceful freedom of childhood when it is still possible?

The Editorial Board Published 25.05.24, 05:28 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

Images of children with empty eyes sitting alone amid piles of bombed-out rubble in combat zones appear almost every day. Orphaned, lost, displaced or otherwise thrown violently out of their secure orbit, these children would be likely to carry their invisible wounds far into adulthood. The loss of childhood is irreparable; it is a phenomenon occurring all over the world from different causes, not just war, because enmity nowadays is a common feeling. There is no need to travel to Gaza or Sudan to find lost childhoods. Another manifestation of it, as frightening, can be discovered nearby, in Sandeshkhali in West Bengal, for instance. Children are being trained there in the same intense hate that envelops two warring political parties on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections. Placed within the welter of ugly accusations and counter-accusations, children are not only reflecting their families’ anger and desire for vengeance but they are also mouthing rehearsed accusations themselves. Suddenly and unpleasantly media-savvy, they are describing incidents of alleged sexual violence without hesitation, even when it affects their mother, as in one case.

Is hatred so strong a power that it sweeps away people’s need to protect their own offspring from it and preserve for them the joy and the peaceful freedom of childhood when it is still possible? Sandeshkhali is not Gaza. Yet no adult in Sandeshkhali stops children from discussing rehearsed details with the media, even when they have not witnessed the incidents they describe. This is a training in hatred of which they should understand little; it is a shocking form of corruption being inculcated by grown-ups that the youngsters trust most. Children are routinely robbed of their childhoods in India because of poverty or trafficking for example, but this is different. Many children accompanied their families in protest marches in Sandeshkhali, joining in their aggressive slogans. The families feel that the children should know that it is a fight for their survival. Will they ever outgrow this education in blind hostility or return to the play-fights of innocence?


Adults do not hesitate to bend children to their aggressive purposes. In 2017 — and again in Purulia in 2018 in spite of the state government’s prohibitory order — children with naked, upraised swords and other arms were deployed in processions conducted by a political party on Ram Navami. This was a deliberate distortion of children’s minds as well as of the ideals they were meant to follow. India is known for its indifference to children’s rights. But hatred and violence suffuse the world. A Unicef report shows that between 2005 and 2022, more than 105,000 children were verified as recruited and used by parties to conflict. Some children are initiated into violence by being forced to kill their parents; they are used as porters and messengers, as human shields, suicide bombers and as sex slaves to male fighters. There are not many ways in which adult human beings can sink lower.

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