Today is the day when my unforgettable memories, associated with school, flashed in front of me in the most terrifying way. Today morning, I woke up to a news that turned one of the most impressive edifices in the city into a haunting place.
The beauty of the lush green garden in the school was marred by the stains of blood. The siren that marked the completion of a lecture was replaced with the sirens of police cars, that marked the ending of one’s life. That morning, at a time when students would flock to touch the feet of the teacher, they flocked to see her dead body inside her office. In a place where the sound of lessons being learnt in unison keeps on reverberating, on this day had those sounds replaced by the sounds of shots and screams.
Yes, I was a student at that school and I witnessed that brutality. I woke up to a horrifying news that left me shuddering with fear. It was not the usual kind of fear that one may experience, but fear born of witnessing a highly barbaric and inhumane incident. It was a news that occupied space in every leading newspaper and ran as a headline on every news channel.
It was a news that Principal Ritu Chabra, of my childhood school in Yamuna Nagar district of Haryana, was shot dead by a student of class 12 inside her office. The student pumped in three bullets inside her body, and ultimately she succumbed to injuries in hospital. The only fault of hers was that she scolded him once and called his parents to a monthly parent-teacher meeting.
This incident is not the first, and I know it will not be the last. There were incidents before this that shook the inner conscience of the nation. Last year, a seven-year-old, Pradyuman Thakur, was found with his throat slit in his school’s bathroom. He was allegedly murdered by a 16-year-old student of the same school, Ryan International School, in Gurgaon. And a few days back, an 11-year-old girl stabbed a six-year-old kid in Lucknow with a kitchen knife.
A string of incidents like this has pushed the issues of violence, aggression and intolerance among children to the centre stage. I know that every barbaric incident like this is followed by an immediate emotional outburst, which is expected. But subsequently, one or another incident like this once again emerges and rattles the nation. It is because of this that one of the most important questions that loom large before us, but are left unanswered, is, “Why are children so violent, aggressive and intolerant?”
There is a need to ponder over the current incidents. We have to look at the exponentially rising rate of juvenile crimes. According to the National Crime Record Bureau data, the number of crimes committed by juveniles is rising by leaps and bounds. According to many psychologists and psychiatrists in India, one of the most prominent reasons attributed to this behaviour of children is the behaviour of their parents. In a hectic work schedule, lack of conversation or interaction between a child and their parent leaves the child alone to live in his own shell, with his own perception, inferences and notions. Exposure to the internet and social media, which is flooded with violent content, is also one of the most important factors responsible for this violent behaviour.
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics formulated a policy on “effects of virtual violence on children’s attitudes and behaviours” based on about 400 researches. After summarizing the results of these studies on the subject, the policy statement concludes that there is a substantial relationship between exposure to violent media and aggressive behaviour, thoughts, angry feelings and physiologic arousal in children.
So unjustified pressure from parents exerted upon a child to excel in academics, lack of interaction, and exposure to violent, provocative content, are shaping the minds of children. It’s high time that parents think this over and try to maximise their interaction with children, while also trying to minimise the interaction of a child with violent and provocative content over the internet. This intricate problem is getting worse day by day, and if these things are not taken care of then it will not be surprising if many more Pradyumans keep shaking the conscience of the nation.