SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Source: IMPHAL FREE PRESS
It is unlikely that anybody (except pathological paedophiles) would consciously act against the interest of the child. It is simply against nature. But what is extremely likely is that unknowingly and unintentionally all of us can end up gravely injuring the interest of the child. Ironically, even when harm has been done in the regard, in all

likelihood it would still have been done in the belief that it was in the best interest of the child. Most of the time the presumption of the adult world is they know what is good for the child and thus take the issue for granted. The result is a general silence on children related issues unless of course some drastic developments take place involving children like kidnap, murder, child soldiering etc, monstrosities which unfortunately are no longer a rarity in today’s Manipur. But other than at such times, it is this general silence which can be injurious in the long run. The appeal yesterday by a communist political leader that the election manifestos of political parties should not ignore children issues (published in the IFP), although obviously nudged by a child right worker, is extremely pertinent. Even if we know none of us would advocate policies harmful to the child, it is still essential for us to bring up children issues on the public forum so that they remain active and policy makers are always conscious of them.In this regard, it is disturbing that none of the election manifestos of the different political parties in the state made even a passing reference to the rights of the child. Even more disturbing is that the silence was not even conspicuous. Everybody took it for granted that intuitively the adult world would never betray children and there was nothing very much to discuss or make electoral issues of children affairs. There is another issue with a tendency to fall in the blind spot of society, and this has to do with gender, but thanks to a powerful feminist movement in the last century, this is no longer as bad as it used to be. Even in Manipur, at least one political party, the CPI to be precise, declared it would fight for a 33 percent reservation for women. In the gender issue, it cannot always be said that the males have the best intent for their opposite numbers, after all there is a question of implicit and explicit contest for power between the two in practically all spheres of life. There is hence a great degree of justification in the general presumption that consciously or unconsciously the patriarchal order would ensure that the female gender remains in a subordinate if not subjugated position, be it in the imposition of dress codes, inheritance of parental properties, preferential treatment for boy children even within the family etc.But in a distant way, this sense of being oppressed has led to a resistance, thus taking the matter to the public sphere, and consequently the pressure to act, even if belatedly. But in the case of the child, even this sense is missing because there is absolutely no overt or covert antagonism between the adult world and that of children. There is hence unlikely ever to be the kind of resistance in the nature of the international feminist movement. It only for the adults to consciously advocate their cause and seek attention to area of neglect they have been subject to. Just a few examples would be adequate to convince anybody that this neglect is not imaginary. In the growing congestion of Imphal city, look for a decent children park and be prepared to be appalled. In the mushrooming number of private schools in the city and in the other towns, consider how many schools are run like dingy shops with no space for play and be again prepared to be appalled. In the orphanages and destitute homes run by charitable organisations in the state, discover the per head expenditure the government has ever committed, and yet again be prepared to be appalled. Consider the number of government primary and lower primary schools which have become defunct because of dereliction of duty by their staff and government official alike, and this time be ready to be aghast. Mark Twain once powerfully argued that for every public school (government schools in our case) shut down there would have to be a jail built. He was campaigning against a government move to shut down some public schools in the USA because they were running on a loss, we are campaigning here for the government to ensure our own government schools are not allowed to become rudderless derelicts so that in the not so distant future a light appears at the end of the dark tunnel we are in, and with it a ray of hope for the growing violence in our society to be resolved.

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