On December 11th, two grade eight students in India made history, but for the wrong reasons. They shot and killed, in cold blood, a fellow classmate in an elite school, located in Gurgaon – an Information technology hub on the outskirts of New Delhi, home to multinationals, call centers and million dollar penthouses. It was the first ever school shooting in India.
Ever since, the country has been heatedly debating, and ruing, the fact that the Indian society is becoming increasingly violent with the arrival of, what is being feared as a dreaded gun culture. The commonly-held, shocked view has been, that such things happen in gun-ridden societies like America, not in culturally-rich and peaceful ones like India – so how did this happen?
Newspapers, radio stations and television channels have called in child psychologists and experts to debate the matter to death. Anxious parents are tuning in to learn how to avoid such situations and discourage violence in children in this fast-changing Indian society, which is seeing the flip side of money, development and so-called westernization.
The main area of concern, predictably, has been the rising violence and finding ways to curb it. The culprits are many – from gun-toys, movies and even cartoons that glamorize violence, to uncaring and busy parents, who find little time for their children and their troubles. In the case of this particular shooting, the unremorseful killers claimed that they were being bullied by the victim for a few months and finally reached a point where they could not take it anymore, so they decided to take revenge.
The question that the country is asking, is that had the parents known about their feelings and the extent to which they were willing to go to end the harassment, then could they have avoided such an incident? In retrospect, could they have been a little more involved in their children’s lives?
The answers are not simple. It’s not always easy, argue some, to communicate with teenage children and get them to talk about their life and feelings. That said, however, people in India are realizing the fact that in this day and age of nuclear families and time pressed parents, it is important to strike that balance between work and life to be there for the children, specially for vulnerable teenagers who fall easy prey to the negative influences in society.
The other thing to point out here is that, unlike in the US, in India people rarely admit to their domestic problems or seek professional help. It is quite rare, for instance, to take a child to a psychologist, since, with supposedly strong family bonds, it is seen as fairly needless, if not shameful. Thus, in many cases, when the parents are unaware of their children’s woes, the troubles only increase with time and the situations get out of hand.
In this case, one of the boys smuggled his father’s gun into the school, which had been carelessly left in an unlocked television cabinet in his home – something that is being seen as a major mistake on the part of the family. Not only that, his father has now been arrested because it has recently been revealed that he had actually taught his son how to use a gun.
In the new India, where one segment of society is reaping enormous benefits of India’s growth, guns are, unfortunately, becoming increasingly common, as they are often perceived as a symbol of prosperity. Gun related crime, thus, has been on the rise, specially in cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
India is experiencing tremendous growth and is on the fast track to development, but incidents such as this recent shoot shooting are an indication of the fact that India needs to seriously look at and deal with the flip side of its economic growth and prosperity.