The Maharashtra bandh called by Prakash Ambedkar supported by many Dalit organisations almost brought the state to a standstill. There were incidents of violence where public property and buses were set on fire. At several places ‘rail-roko’ and ‘rasta-roko’ were staged where along with men and women even children anywhere between the ages of 5-12 were also seen. Yes! You read that right; children who were supposed to be holding pens and books were wielding sticks and stones. Worse they were indulging in riotous acts such as damaging windshields of vehicles and throwing stones on buses. This is a very dangerous trend and one that should scare us.
Children as human shields
Kashmir has been the centre of many violent protests with stone pelters targeting the army almost every Friday. It was seen that these stone pelters were mostly young boys (anywhere between 16-26 years). Even children were often used as human shields making it difficult for the army to retaliate. This strategy has been adopted by disruptive forces all through the world thereby making the job of authorities tough. In such instances police or army forces cannot use pellet guns, rubber bullets or even lathis and tear gas for fear of injuring the kids.
We saw something similar but more sinister in yesterday’s bandh protests. Children as young as 5 were throwing stones on vehicles. A video of a boy, hardly five to six years old, with stones in both hands. When asked why he was carrying stones he replies ‘to hit people’. The camera-person asks the boy why he wants to hit people to which he says ‘because they attacked us’. The person then asks whom he is referring to and the boy replies ‘Marathas’. This video is from Pune. The video is as disturbing as it can get. Worse! This is not a lonely instance because children, both boys and girls, were seen in almost all places in the state.
Not a healthy trend
These children are the future of our country therefore we are essentially toying with their and the country’s future by substituting books with stones and sticks. Besides pelting stones and smashing windscreens and windows, these children were using cuss words that would put adults to shame. Children are like wet clay and moulding them properly is the responsibility of both parents and society. What values are we passing on by involving them in rioting? Cases have been registered against few children under the age of 18 by the Mumbai police. These children hardly know the implication of having a police record. Such a record could affect their education and career. Those who instigate children to indulge in violence do not send their children to fight street wars. So basically they are taking advantage of the naivety and poverty of the masses for their own selfish political gains.
Have the foot soldiers ever given a thought to why their leaders’ children and relatives aren’t on the roads? Why is it that they have to do all the dirty work while the benefit goes to the politician who doesn’t even do anything for them? If these leaders really wanted to uplift their people they wouldn’t be asking children, who ideally belong to classrooms, to come out on the streets.
Don’t spoil their future
A quote I read comes to mind that says ‘children are great imitators, give them something worth imitating’. Obviously we don’t want the future of this country wielding weapons rather than books. We as adults have responsibility to teach them what is right and what isn’t. The child in the video (posted above) hardly knows what he is doing and why he doing it. He is being taught to hate people of a certain caste only because politicians of a certain breed believe in the ‘US VS THEM’ theory. Let us not spoil their innocence and teach them hatred. The only thing they need to be taught is that ‘WE ARE ALL INDIANS’. Politicians should not be allowed to stake the future of this country for their selfish interest of capturing power.