Yesterday, the offspring went with a friend to watch an IPL match. This involved taking a train to go all the way to Churchgate from the distant suburb we live in and coming back late at night. He is fifteen, old enough, I told myself. I had been travelling alone by trains since I was 12. The local trains are a different animal today from what they were when I was growing up though. I haven’t travelled in them in a while, blame it on old age and panic attacks I get in crowded places these days. But while he’s negotiated our part of the suburbs well enough, he had never travelled by local trains and that too without adult supervision. Instructions were given, repeated, written down, Whatsapped. Negotiating a local railway station explained. Google maps pressed into service. And then, with a hope and a prayer and stern instructions to call at every point in the journey issued before he left.

Sending a child out into the world is putting your heart outside of your body and seeing it being subjected to all imaginable dangers possible that you can do nothing to protect it from. How much can you protect a child, I wondered, and even if you keep them in an environment that you think is protected, are they really safe there? And worse, what if your child isn’t safe even from other kids?

Last week news came in about a boarding school in Dehradun where a 12 year old had been battered to death by his seniors. The school buried the child and tried their best to hush up the case. As a parent, this was heartbreaking to even imagine.

Sending a child out into the world is putting your heart outside of your body and seeing it being subjected to all imaginable dangers possible that you can do nothing to protect it from.

Yesterday, an online portal carried a story detailing the kind of violence the twelve year old had been subject to before he died. I could not bear to read the report to the end. The horrific violence that he had undergone, the torture that went on for six hours, the death that came through internal injuries. And the horrifying fact that no one came to his rescue, the seniors tortured him for hours in full visibility of the other children and the people in authority at the school. The child was then buried, the school hoping to pass his death as one that happened due to natural causes. A life snuffed out needlessly.

dehradun school student
Picture Credit: STP

Back in 1954, William Golding wrote a novel which would go rather unnoticed and uncommented upon in its first outing, barely sell three thousand copies and then go out of print. The book then went on to be a bestseller and is today considered iconic. The book? Lord of the Flies. A damning indictment of how quickly young boys can degenerate into savagery and even become killers. This book came to mind as I read about this case in Dehradun. Is it that savagery is intrinsic to us as humans, even as children, and that it just takes certain circumstances to fall into place to allow it to be unleashed. That social norms and civil regulations of behaviour are but veneers that are easily dropped.

Is it that savagery is intrinsic to us as humans, even as children, and that it just takes certain circumstances to fall into place to allow it to be unleashed.

Schools and colleges have always had horror stories of ragging that have been whispered about. Some have led to mental trauma, other have caused physical injuries, there have been some instances of severe physical violence. Even some deaths. Some so gruesome that they’ve made headlines. In 1996, a 19 year old’s dismembered body was found scattered across different parts of Tamil Nadu. Ragged and then killed because he refused to strip and lick a senior’s shoe. In 2009, Aman Kachroo suffered serious head injuries from ragging by seniors at medical college in Himachal Pradesh. He had just filed a police complaint against the same seniors the previous day for ragging. The next day he was dead. In 2012, a 17 year old aeronautical engineering student in Bangalore was set on fire by his seniors and died of his injuries. In 1998, Indu Anto, a student of Sophia College committed suicide, her body was found with injuries which were over a day old. Two other students were booked for abetment of suicide. Indu’s parents fought the case to get justice for her for over a decade. Then there was the horrific case of the boy who slit the throat of another child in the bathroom of a school in Delhi just so that school would be closed for the day. A reason so puerile that it makes you wonder about the complete lack of empathy and emotion, and what shaped these children to become this way.

Stories that will churn your stomach because part of you as a parent will always wonder whether this could happen to your child.

There are more, many more.  Stories that will churn your stomach because part of you as a parent will always wonder whether this could happen to your child.  And even worse, how do you send your child out into a world where children are not even safe from other children.

Kiran Manral is Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.

Picture Credit: SheThePeople

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