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Karnataka anti-CAA school play: Should children not participate in political movements?

The questioning of 85 children of a Karnataka school by the police over a play that was allegedly staged against the Citizenship Act has drawn sharp criticism.

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The questioning of 85 children of a Karnataka school by the police over a play that was allegedly staged against the Citizenship Act has drawn sharp criticism. Child rights activists protested in front of the DGP office Thursday in Bengaluru even as the police justified its action.

ThePrint asks: Karnataka anti-CAA school play: Should children not participate in political movements?

Bhagat Singh was 12 when he visited Jallianwala Bagh. Why not make children politically aware today?

Aananth DaksnamurthyAananth Daksnamurthy
Contributing journalist, ThePrint

When children can be made to dress up like political personalities in fancy dress competitions, I do not see any harm in them acting in plays with political overtones. They probably do not even understand the ideals of Gandhi, Nehru, or Bose when they dress up like them. So, it is okay for children to participate in plays that have an underlying political theme. At the same time, we also need to understand that the children in question belong to a community that is at the centre of the ongoing protests in India. So, it becomes necessary for them to be involved in whatever little way they can, and express their solidarity with the cause of their fraternity. But it is also important to ensure that they aren’t forced into such activities. Their participation should happen only after the consent of the parents.

I fail to understand what makes the establishment afraid of children involved in a play with a political theme. We celebrate Bhagat Singh, who was 12 when he visited Jallianwala Bagh immediately after the massacre. Another freedom fighter, Khudiram Bose, actively participated in the discussions around revolutions at the age of 13. Bose became a volunteer and distributed revolution pamphlets when he was 15. Young Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay was very much attracted by the Swadeshi movement. There are examples of many great personalities whose life was shaped by their political engagement when they were still in their teens. If we can celebrate their feats from when they were young, why not make our children politically aware in these disturbing times?

Any ideology that is taught to a child when he/she is young amounts to indoctrination

Rohini Swamy
Associate Editor, ThePrint

Children should not be part of political movements as they need to attain a certain level of maturity, both intellectually as well as age-wise to make a decision. That is why the voting age in most democracies is set at 18 years. It is scientifically proven to be the age when one attains enough maturity to decide what is right or wrong.

But at the same time, I also believe that it is the responsibility of adults to inform and educate children on key issues in the public domain by giving them both sides of the debate. For example, during the debate on the inclusion of lessons on Tipu Sultan in textbooks in Karnataka, it was decided that both arguments — why he is known as a tyrant, and his immense contribution in the field of science, technology and administration — must be dwelt on. Armed with such knowledge, children would be able to assess and debate the subject in a fair manner, and not paint issues as black and white. Same applies to the ongoing protests in India. Children should not be actively involved in them, but they must read and try to understand the issue and make a judgement of their own. Any ideology that is taught to a child when he/she is young amounts to indoctrination and does not give them the right to think and assess.

Alabama marches, Tiananmen Square: Children have participated in political movements

Debayan Roy
Principal Correspondent, ThePrint

If there is anything that is not in line with our political beliefs, the usual tendency is to dismiss it. The same is happening here with children. Are we drawing a line here to suggest that those who would lead our nation in the days to come have a mind that can be easily influenced?

Before we dismiss the role of children in political movements, it is important to remember that it was young children protesters who participated in one of the three Alabama marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. The demonstrations were pivotal in the eventual passage of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting practices based on race. Let us also not forget the violence of Tiananmen Square, where a group of Chinese students and children rode bikes around Beijing in the 1980s, waving banners and working to rally support for their pro-democracy movement. They were later suppressed by soldiers, resulting in casualties, but their movement remains unforgettable.

If we are questioning children’s involvement in political movements, we should also be questioning our ‘adult’ selves to know if we are equipped to handle the young energy in such movements. During an anti-CAA protest in Daryaganj, police did not even blink once before detaining young children and women. Although infants can be excused from such movements, depriving a young mind from expressing their views for the fear of being “tutored” is not acceptable.

Kids do a disservice to their intellectual growth by being part of movements they don’t entirely comprehend

Pia Krishnankutty
Journalist, ThePrint

Children should be protected from political movements for the sake of their own safety and intellectual growth. The case in Bidar is proof of how safety comes into play. Students from classes VI, VII and VIII were interrogated for hours by police and a 9-year-old has had to suffer on account of his mother’s arrest. While the harsh police action should come under criticism, in this case, a child should never have been put in a position of collateral damage either.

While I do believe engagement with politics outside the classroom is positive, emulating others is also common among developing brains. It happens in our very homes, among siblings or between parent and child. Therefore, my concern is less about children being “used” by political forces, but more about them doing a disservice to their own intellectual growth. They may become foot soldiers in a political movement they can’t entirely wrap their head around — be it the ideology, legal implications or even the size of the movement.

This is what spurred libraries at protest sites like Shaheen Bagh, Seelampur and Shahi Eidgah. According to Jamia students who set up these libraries, the point is that while women protest, their children engage with literature and art that is categorically not related to the CAA, the NPR, or the NRC. It is to ensure that future generations are not hardened by hate or lose out on a “normal” childhood.

Also read: Amit Shah raises Shaheen Bagh in Delhi election: BJP’s desperation or trump card?

By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint

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  1. Why wasn’t police action taken on the school that made children reenacted the demolition of Babri masjid, that was shared by Kiran Bedi?

  2. As a high school student myself

    I think schools (in India) are not a good place to discuss politics

    Because the NCERT books clearly propagate LEFT WING SOCISLISM

    What about other views of society, economics and religion

    My views on society and reservation got a 0/5

    My view of a welfare society got a 0/5

    Excited for the new NCF by this gov

  3. There was a time when a simple post card written to it would be treated as a PIL by the honourable Supreme Court of India, substantive relief and justice would follow, covering the entire country. That won it a special place in the hearts of almost all Indians. This utterly shameful incident is something which should have shocked its conscience, led to a forceful suo moto intervention. To be fair, a lot is going wrong, it cannot overextend itself. However, this was an opportunity for it to demonstrate its legal and moral authority, set right a grievous wrong.

  4. What comes to mind are small Palestinian children throwing stones at cruel, heavily armed Israeli soldiers. At what stage in life does a child become aware of injustice and oppression ? Should they keep reading Mills & Boon till they have left college ? A Muslim child growing up in a ghetto, sometimes being taunted at school, cannot remain oblivious. So if some children have taken part in a play with a political message, that is okay with me, although the opposing view is not without merit. 2. What is execrable is how the police have behaved. Arresting a teacher and a single, working mother. Much more, their repeated questioning of the children, subjecting them to pain and trauma, which will get embedded in their memories. No longer Mahatma Gandhi’s India. Or even of ordinary, decent human beings.

  5. All so called socialists are communists and more communal than the BJP… Cowards using kids who are not even aware of what CAA or NRC is… These are paid foreign funded mercenaries who doesn’t want INDIA to be stronger on instructions of their pay master’s…

    Beggars can’t Help INDIA mindset do these cheap activity…

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