Spare the gun, don’t spoil the child

By Uma Sudhir
“I was very disturbed seeing the visuals.”
My journalist-friend Narayanan who had just seen a report that I had filed, called to say from Delhi. The report had shown school students, visibly excited, holding weapons, even aiming one at A K Khan, police commissioner of Hyderabad, as part of an exercise to familiarise gen-next with weapons used by the police force.

“What is the police trying to do?” he asked, sounding truly exasperated. “Is this what we want our children to take a fancy to? Guns?!!”

To provoke such a reaction had precisely been the reason why I had chosen the videoclippings of school boys, hardly in their teens, looking thrilled at a chance to hold the ultimate toys, real guns. That too, an array of weapons, being offered virtually on a platter by the police, who were willingly answering questions, encouraging and engaging the boys on what each of the weapons was capable of doing.

This was an exercise being conducted in police station limits across Andhra Pradesh as part of weeklong celebrations leading up to the observation of the annual police commemoration day on 21st October. Only that this year, they became images that disturbed and raised questions.

Because in a zilla parishad school in a village in Khammam district, a loaded carbine being carried by a AP Special Police constable became part of the weaponry being shown to the children. The enthusiastic policeman apparently got carried away and was trying to show the children, how the weapon is loaded and fired, when accidentally, one round fired and five bullets went off. Two children were killed and three were injured.

Aravinda Rao, the state DGP said it was “stupid”, misplaced enthusiasm on the part of the constable. That a loaded gun is never meant to be part of such a show.

No doubt it was an accident that led to the tragic loss of young lives. I even feel sorry for the constable whose sense of regret must be making life really difficult for him.

But what about the larger question. Why should weapons that kill be shown to children as prized possessions? If the intention of the PR or familiarisation exercise (call it what you may) was to reach out to the public, earn respect for the state police and inspire and motivate youngsters to join the force, I am not so sure this is the best way to do it.

The fantasy of holding a gun as a trophy, as the ultimate means to evoke fear and give a false sense of machoism, to establish power equations, cannot be the reason why a young man would want to join the police force. Don’t we want the policeman to be someone who is respected rather than feared? Someone who will use non-violent options available under the law to ensure citizens rights are protected.

Today’s child is already growing up in an environment where it has become a big challenge for parents and teachers to expose and impress the child with role models that help him understand that verbal and physical threat and violence are not the best ways to either vent anger or resolve conflict.

As the mother of a seven-year-old, I share the deep concern of several parents that even television content like cartoons and videogames, purportedly meant for children, have an overload of violence and destruction that tends to desensitise a child and have a deep impact on impressionable young minds.

“Even the sweet-looking Tom and Jerry is so violent. And videogames are full of machine guns and fast-moving vehicles that are always crashing into each other. And my son is addicted to all of it,” confesses the mother of a 8-year-old. It is the same story everywhere.

Last month we were at the Andhra Pradesh karate championship at Hyderabad’s Lal Bahadur stadium. The competition was in two categories. A duel between two and a solo exhibition event, that looks almost like a martial dance. A father was egging on his 6-year-old daughter who was fighting her opponent. “Face pe maar, mooh pe maar. Bola na, zor se maar mooh pe.”

I am sure martial art teaches you many, many positive things. It keeps you fit and self-confident. That is why we had enrolled our daughter. But may be because I am ignorant, I don’t have the stomach for violence or simply just don’t have the spirit of a sportsperson. Suddenly I was not at all sure I would want my daughter to do this. To hurt an opponent and feel like a victor.

I am scared to think what we are doing to our youngsters. I was recently speaking to some teenage school boys from a prestigious institution of Hyderabad. The boys were telling me what is considered `cool’. Cigarette, hookah, fancy cars, latest gizmos.

“We have late night racing on our vehicles on the roads of Jubilee Hills. Sometimes there are accidents and fights break out too. That is why we have to keep a weapon, to ward off the other gang,” one of them told me, very matter of fact.

I was shocked, he was amused.

“I can show you where and how we get a weapon,” he boasted. I found out later that it was not an empty boast. It was life on the fast lane. Time to wake up and do a reality check, at least for the sake of our children.
Could we start with the police please.

About t s sudhir & uma sudhir

Uma Sudhir and T S Sudhir are senior journalists, based in Hyderabad. Both work for NDTV. Uma is a Tamilian, who was educated in
This entry was posted in Andhra Pradesh, Child rights, Human interest blogs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Spare the gun, don’t spoil the child

  1. Madhavan Reddy says:

    Uma very thought provoking article…never got a chance or took time out to thnk..thnx 4 stimulating such a thot…wl encourage my 7 year old daughter learning martial art in school to look at positive side only of self defence…

  2. murali shankaran says:

    grt thought provoking article uma thnx

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