Riots which are the most brutal events in the history of Independent India make children unnecessary victims. The impact is described graphically as ‘trauma haunts of children’ or ’children live in terror’.
The sudden change of the peaceful environment is very hard to accept. Yesterday the same children went to school or the playground together. Suddenly comes the blow and the separation occurs as swiftly as Tsunami to inundate everything valued. The impact on children has greater significance as their normal development is interrupted by the riots. In addition, a whole generation of children will grow up with a distorted view of relationships with communities and this is not desirable from individual and community viewpoints. It is for these reasons that the interventions to minimise the psychological effects is an important aspect of relief, rehabilitation,reconstruction and reconciliation.
All disasters pose a monumental challenge to the the children of the community who are the future of our country. They are exposed to disaster with a disastrous result. Hindus care for hindus, muslims care for muslims. Apparently, it may seem nice, but it starts yielding its poisonous fruits, when, Hindus attack Muslims or Buddhists, or Muslims attack Hindu, or Hindus attack Christians.
Who are the worst sufferers in all these social chaos? The answer is ‘children’ because the effect is always tragically felt in the plight of the children. They look the most helpless and unprotected part of the society during the communal riots. The grown ups are all engaged in violence and the children are orphaned. This happened in the riot torn areas of all ages. In the post partitioned period in India communal violence took a heavy toll of innocent lives of children. The refugee camps show the vulnerability of the riot torn children. Since the days of the Great Calcutta killing, children without any of their fault are compelled to live in an atmosphere of distrust, violence, and insecurity of all kinds. In 2002 Gujarat riots and in 2012 Assam riots after the Nellie Massacre there, children have been subjected to rape, mutilation, murder and burning or witnessed it happening to friends, family and neighbours.
Post-event arrests have seen adolescents and children being subjected to custodial injustice. Lastly, there are problems relating to the educational systemprevailing in the state. Children are either being denied access into school or the processof re-entry is made so difficult that children prefer to change their school or drop out ofschool. All these are leaving them traumatised and scarred while disrupting the sense of well-being among children.
A kind of brutal animalism prevails. A child whose mind works on a divine plane, reacts sharply to the ghastly incidents that occur in the time of communal riots. The adjustment to the situation is difficult for the children. Even yesterday, they played with the neighbour’s child. Suddenly the fence comes, the distance and the separation. Children start believing that we are above everything Hindu, Muslim or Christian. The concept of Indianness is destroyed which they were given to learn in their school or college days. The caste and creed questions become so prominent that the human values are only forgotten.
The children who crossed the Indo-Bangladesh and India–Pakistan borders to escape riots–sponsored violence, suffer their whole life from a sense of rootlessness and psychological insecurity. In going to comment on the Bahmani sack of Vijaynagar, Caesaro Federici, an Italian traveller writes - "The Citie of Bezeneger is not altogether destroyed, yet the houses stand still, but emptie, and there is dwelling in them nothing, as is reported, but Tygres and other wild beasts." This also happened when Nadir Shah ransacked Delhi and did the massacre in Delhi.
The emptiness is just not materialistic, it is spiritual and mental. This emptiness gradually settles on the mind of grown up men and the memories of horrible past become the source of all revenge and retailiation of one caste against the other.
India is a secular state, but large-scale violence has periodically occurred in India since independence. In recent decades, communal tensions and religion-based politics have become more prominent. Children are most vulnerable during the communal riots. They are often separated from their families, driven from their homes, killed, maimed, sexually abused or exploited in other ways. Children whose parents are rioters suffer no less plight than those whose parents are the victims of such riots. In countries suffering economic hardship the plight of the children is always great but during the riot time, they become the most vulnerable part of the society.
During the Emergency period thousands of Sikhs campaigning for autonomous government and against the "fascist tendency" of the Central Government were imprisoned. As a result of their "Campaign to Save Democracy", out of 140,000 people arrested without trial during the Indian Emergency, 40,000 were Sikhs. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms took place in Delhi, where government and police officials aided Congress party worker gangs in "methodically and systematically" targeting Sikhs and Sikh homes. As a result of the pogroms 10,000-17,000 were burned alive or otherwise killed. Sikh people suffered massive property damage, and "at least 50,000" Sikhs became displaced persons and their children at that time underwent all the traumatic experiences which in their later life made them violent against their fellowmen.
In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in violent attacks on Christians in India, often perpetrated by Hindu Nationalists. Between 1964 and 1996, thirty-eight incidents of violence against Christians were reported. During this period, the grown ups quarreled and the children suffered most. Prominent among the attacks of Muslims against the Hindus are the 1998 Chamba massacre, the 2002 fidayeen attacks on Raghunath temple, the 2002 Akshardham Temple attack allegedly perpetrated by Islamic terrorist outfit and the 2006 Varanasi bombings resulting in many deaths and injuries. Recent attacks on Hindus by Muslim mobs include Marad massacre, Godhra train burning etc. In the 2002 Gujarat violence also we witnessed similar plight of children.
During the communal riots destruction of property occurs due to arson and looting and the children’s future becomes insecure even after the riots are over. Their psychological trauma is indescribable. Actually, children do not have any rancor or grudge in their mind. But once they witness a communal riot before their very eyes, they grow up with that feeling of racial acrimony. My father is killed by a hindu or my mother is killed by a muslim - this kind of trauma is never effaced from a child’s mind. Just imagine the feelings of a child who saw his or her parent gang raped or brutally murdered before his or her very eyes. In Moradabad, Jabalpur, Godhra and Bhiwandi, concerted efforts have been constantly made by fascist communal organizations to destroy the economic base of Muslims belonging to the middle classes. The worst sufferers are again the children whose future becomes bleak unwarrantedly.
Will these atrocities seen by the children be at all forgotten? We grown ups quarrels and make our own children sick and depressed, insecure and gloomy.