Effect Of Communal Violence On Our Children
A Brief Statement by Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson SACCS/ Global March/BBA
Childhood is synonymous to innocence. For these tiny beings, religion makes no sense. They are even oblivious of their existence as muslims or hindus, sikhs or christians.
By the time this sense starts to prevail on them they are made subject to inhumane and barbaric acts either as victims or its silent witness. At such a tender age they experience the butchery, torture and killings either on themselves or their loved ones, all in the name of religion.
Sadly, these are not rare incidents. Just in the last couple of decades our country has seen innumerable violent communal outbursts. Be it the violence against the Sikhs in 1984, the riots in Mumbai, long continuing massacre targeting Kashmiri pundits and peace loving muslims or, for that matter, the ongoing violence in Gujarat, we have seen it all and so have our children.
Violent outbursts of communal tensions leave a permanent stamp on the minds and souls of these children. They live with the feeling of hatred, fear or even revenge all their lives.
Not as many are killed during these conflicts as are left frightened. This is well evident even during the communal uproar in Gujarat where over 400,000 to 500, 000 children have been left in utter shock and fear.
To make things worse, there are no organised efforts to help them overcome the after affects of such horrifying incidents. No mechanism is in place for their psychological healing.
Even the judicial inquiries or the relief and rehabilitation measures ordered following such incidents lack children as their focus.
We need to give special attention to the needs of these children to help them come out of the traumatic experiences. At the same time, as a preventive measure, we should focus on curbing the present trend of communalisation of children through the educational institutions. It is seen that many of the religious schools are imbibing among our children the values of intolerance and hatred towards other religions. This should be immediately put to an end, as there can never be a communal harmony otherwise.
We therefore place the following demands:
Investigations of such incidents should thoroughly study their impact on the children (including how many children were left orphan, how many are without schooling, etc.)
The rehabilitation process should also focus on the psychological impact, both short and long term. Counselling and other effective measures for trauma care and recovery should be in-built in the mechanism.
Government should have some programs for the recreation and education of children in the relief camps till the time they are properly rehabilitated. Unpleasant experiences in such relief camps have a detrimental effect on the development of these children.
Special effort should be made to cover up for the loss of education of children due to such incidents. Should ensure protection of all the affected children and sent them back to schools at the earliest.
A National Commission should be immediately set up to review the syllabus of all the educational institutions, particularly those managed by the religious institutions. If the content is found to be communal in nature aimed at poisoning the young minds, it should be immediately scrapped.
And last, but not the least, children's point of view should be taken into account while developing any scheme for their rehabilitation.