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Assam riots: Children living in terror
Grown-ups fight in the name of religion and land, leaving a trail of destruction. But in the process, children become the major victims of brutal conflicts. A child who would have dreamed of a glorious career grows up into an adult with only revenge to kill the murderers of his father or mother.

COMMUNAL RIOTS that wrecked various parts of India have only left the children insecure and traumatic. The sudden change of the peaceful environment is very hard for them 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 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 children of the community who are the future of our country.

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 Hindus, or Hindus attack Christians. Who are the worst sufferers in all this social chaos? The answer is ‘children’ because the effect is always tragically felt in the plight of the children. They are the most helpless and unprotected parts 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 partition India, communal violence took a heavy toll on innocent lives of children. The refugee camps show the vulnerability of the riot-torn children. Since the days of the Great Calcutta killings, children without any of their fault are being compelled to live in an atmosphere of distrust, violence, and insecurity of all kinds.  In 2002 Gujarat riots and in 2012 Assam riots and after the Nellie Massacre, in which around 3000 people from minority community were killed, children have been subjected to rape, mutilation, murder and burning.

Post-event arrests have seen adolescents and children being subjected to custodial injustice. Lastly, there are problems relating to the educational system prevailing in the state. Children are either being denied access to schools or the process of re-entry is made so difficult that children prefer to change their school or drop out. All these are leaving them traumatised and scarred while disrupting the sense of well being among them.

A kind of brutal animalism prevails. A child, whose mind works on a divine plane, reacts sharply to the ghastly incidents that occur at the time of riots. The adjustment to the situation is difficult for the children. Even yesterday, they played with the neighbour’s child. Suddenly the fence comes along with distance and the separation. Children start believing that they are above everything - Hindu, Muslim or Christian. The concept of Indian-ness is destroyed which they were made to learn during 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.

The emptiness in the houses after the riots is just not materialistic, but it is spiritual and mental as well. This emptiness gradually settles on the minds of grown up men and the memories of horrible past become the source of all revenge and retaliation 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 1984 Delhi riots, Sikh people suffered massive property damage, and at least 50,000 Sikhs were displaced and their children at that time underwent all the traumatic experiences, which in their later life made them violent against their fellow countrymen.

In the recent communal riots in Assam, among the marginalised and the minority, 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 minds. But once they witness a communal riot before their very eyes, they grow up with that feeling of racial acrimony. My father was killed by a Hindu or my mother was killed by a Muslim - this kind of trauma is never effaced from a child’s mind. In Assam, after the Nellie massacre, children stopped coming to schools and colleges for a long time.

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? And we grown-ups unfortunately fight and make our own children sick and depressed, insecure and gloomy.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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