“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.
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.
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.
I was shocked, he was amused.