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Where childhood ends

In this particular case of murder, pre-meditated as it was, ‘remedial counselling’ must form only part of the punishment.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2007 00:03 IST

The outcome of the whirlpool of stomach-churning anxiety that the cold-blooded murder of a 14-year-old by his classmates in a private school has triggered, will decide what lessons we learn from the incident. We can rush to write tomes on gun culture, the school can point accusatory fingers at parents, who, in turn, can allege that the school failed to contain bullying or spot danger signs of a fight gone horribly wrong. Conversely, we can simply think of this as an isolated incident that cannot be used as representation of a rudderless youth. It will be mandatory to throw in caveats against television violence, gaming and the power of wealth. More likely than not, schools will indulge in ‘counselling’ of both teachers and parents. In all the ramifications and extrapolations, one thing will remain constant. The children will not be blamed.

That is where a crucial error of judgment seems to be getting repeated in our school systems and parenting styles. The failure to make children, after a certain age, accountable for their decisions. The failure to make children responsible for their behaviour and action. The failure to make children value their own judgments. It is all very well to get to the so-called ‘root’ of the problem and tut-tut about parents not giving time to wards or training teachers to detect trouble spots that can spiral into tragic consequence. It is simply not enough. Mollycoddling children, over-emphasising the need to be assertive and granting them rights without any obligation of duty is a sure-fire recipe for the kind of trouble that is brewing across all schools, poor and rich, public and private. While we bemoan the loss of ‘innocence’, we don’t ponder for once that with early ‘adulthood’, children must be first taught to appreciate the implications of their ‘independent’ actions. But the tendency is to deflect responsibility, and whisk children away from the scene of trouble. In this particular case of murder, pre-meditated as it was, ‘remedial counselling’ must form only part of the punishment.

The victim paid with his life for he was oblivious to the limits he was pushing the two youngsters. The two who chose murder as a weapon of revenge feel no remorse for what they have done. Three youngsters who had little regard for their own selves. That, really, is the main issue we need to address. The first step has to be to instill a sense of self-worth and purpose in the lives of our children.