Tuesday, February 25, 2014

India's Silent Carnage

Conversation I
I asked P___ about his favourite subject in school. "Punjabi." he said without looking at me.
"And which is the subject you like the least?" 
"The teacher beats a lot."   
P____ is 10 years old. Once in a while, he accompanies his mother H_____, who works as a cleaner in several of the apartments. His father is a truck driver who's mostly away. 
Conversation II
Garbage cart (http://www.willylogan.com)
The fellow who worked as a janitor found a work in the pantry in a nearby BPO. I saw his replacement from my balcony a few days later. He had a small child with him, riding on the cycle garbage cart. The father was pushing it from behind. I jumped over the railing, walked up to them and asked why wasn't the child in school. The father obviously didn't expect me to be speaking to him about the child's education. By his demeanour, he seemed to have been preparing for the defense against some middle-class peeve I might have been bringing against him. On hearing my query, hopefully sufficiently polite, he mouthed an obscenity directed at his son and said, "I have told him to go to school but he refuses to listen." It was hard for me to accept how a 9- or 10-year-old can defy his father. So I asked the boy directly, "Why don't you go to school". "The teachers there beat me a lot, even without any fault of mine," he had the answer ready. 
Conversation III
A few years back, I had assisted a few kids from a nearby slum to develop a short skit on the obstacles they face in pursuit of their education. The few that were highlighted included: (i) drug abuse, (ii) parents insensitive to education, (iii) prejudice against girls education and yes, (iv) physical violence inflicted by apparently frustrated teachers.

I myself have been whacked a few times while I was at school, so I am not against corporal punishment per se. But in the case of these boys, one could clearly see that it was not just a case of discipline. 

Children of Dalit parents still find it extremely hard to secure a place in the classroom. The daily physical violence, besides verbal and psychological abuse, not only perpetuates demoralization in individuals but, in fact, pushes entire generations into uneducatedness despite proliferation of schools and educational institutions. 

The problem is that it is teachers, with their warped mindsets, who are responsible for this monumental crime, this very selective intellectual slaughter. 

This is not any less horrific than any of the school shootouts that happen on, let's say, American school campuses.  The latter does get a lot of media coverage, and rightly so. 

But isn't it time we also talk about India's silent carnage?