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?
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
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
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
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.
By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint