The world has seen a new order after Covid-19 which broke down on 31 Dec 2019. It has paralysed the whole system that has been created and shaped since the centuries. The businesses are shut, overseas movement closed; the doors of every working institution were made to stop working overnight. It seems that the virus is not going to stop in the very near future. However the world has started to look into the ways for survival. We have realised now Society can grow and survive if it can constructively respond to the challenges. We can get alcohol by standing in long queues for hours or at least a less privileged can get food to eat.
Apart from basic necessities, the education system was the biggest challenge to restart its functioning. Likewise we cope up the problems of daily utilities we are now seeing the education system coming into the term of working online. Children are getting online assignments, online classes and class tests. I heard someone asking a Jio customer care executive in Delhi to inform him about some extra data plans so that the education of his child won’t suffer.
But when I visited my home town (A village in Kashmir), the story was different. The children of the village have not been to school since the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir On 5 August 2019. Keeping children away from the schools for such a long period of time is not normal.
The children in the village are prone to get into serious problems like depression, losing ability to make and keep friendships, which is a vital part of growing up. Due to full involvement of children into different family discussions, the children have started growing mature before their age which according to different psychologists are not good signs for the development and growth. Seeing parents arguing at home creates a sensation of panic within the child. They feel frightened and helpless. These feelings of vulnerability and insecurity can shape a child’s personality and last a lifetime.
All these issues have made children very vulnerable and children in Kashmir who are not having access even to their online classes due to disturbed internet facilities are on edge of losing their interest in education. The state after abrogation of Article 370 has not only curbed the dreams of the Kashmiris but they have shuttered the basic right to education, right to live in a peaceful environment.
If the children from rest of the world are going to online classes why is this right not given to the children of Kashmir?
The tale of destructive childhood is not new in Kashmir. It started decades ago when Kashmir was made a fighting club by different powers over a period of time. Our generation is the prime witness of all these miseries. We did not have a normal childhood. We grew up when militancy and gun culture had firmly established their sway in the Valley. Our elders were more preoccupied, trying to be safe from the security forces, which had a ubiquitous presence in our homes, schools and streets. We heard tales of the military taking away some youth, never to be seen again.
We have been socialised in such a manner that even our games were not normal if we evaluate them in today’s child development parameters.
We grew up playing games like “Military Mujahid”. This is how children in conflict zones grew up. The Stages where children are meant to learn softness, peace, prosperity are forced to get into the harshness, despair, oppression. We grew up playing the military-Mujahid game in the streets of our village. The game where Children play roles of mujahid (militants) and army men. The robust kids with relatively better histrionic talent are given the role of mujahids. They are also equipped with better rifles, bullets, made of wood and discarded pieces of wool or cotton. And the relatively weaker kids are given the role of army men. The game always ended in the defeat of the army men and victory of the Mujahids, who were presented as heroes while the army was the villain. The generation of kids in our villages has been forced to experience an even more distorted childhood.
The situation has worsened during the protracted lockdown in the Valley after the dilution of Article 370 and now lockdown because of Covid-19 pandemic. The common drawing room discussions that children heard in Kashmir are encounters, Loot of resources, invasion of their land by strangers. They perceive this information as they are being told. The kind of disparity that every institution in Kashmir is facing will lead to more agony and anguish among common Kashmiris.