Let’s talk about teenage violence: ‘I am a 15-year-old accused of murder’
Juvenile crime is on the rise in India. A juvenile, confined to a reform home, now wonders how a fight over a friendship band ended up in the death of a classmate.
My world has shrunk. It is now restricted to a courtyard and a dormitory. I can see the clear blue skies but have no sense of freedom. A huge padlock on an iron grill gate keeps me indoors. My life is now being determined by a section of the Indian Penal Code.
I am a teenager, accused of murder.
Until recently, I was a Class 9 student. Today, I’m a juvenile, facing charges under Section 302. I live in a reform home for boys and am surrounded by alleged rapists, murderers and chain snatchers. I have been in the juvenile home for over a month and know my new friends -- all below the age of 16 – by their IPC sections.
The fight in school that led to the death of a classmate keeps replaying in my head. What made me so angry? Why did I use all my strength to rain blows on the face of my schoolmate? He was hit so hard he collapsed on the toilet floor of our school in Northeast Delhi.
I remember asking him for the friendship band he was wearing and he took it off and gave it to me. I tied it on my wrist and went into class. After two periods, he wanted it back and I was reluctant to return it to him. He kept pestering me to return the band and I got angry. We had a heated exchange and threatened to beat each other.
I caught him in the school bathroom and socked him hard. There were other classmates in the toilet and one of them tried to intervene and end the fight. Before I knew it, the classmate fell to the floor, unconscious. I sprinkled water on his face and tried to revive him. My heartbeat was racing. Why was he not getting up? I rushed to the staff room and called a teacher.
The teacher tried to revive him but failing to do so, rushed out to call the school principal. We picked him up and took him to the staff room, from where he was taken to hospital.
I walked home from school, like I did every day.
That evening was different. I did not reach out for the music collection I’ve being downloading for months. I didn’t kick-start the scooter and race through the bylanes around our two-storey home where I lived with my parents and sisters. I didn’t crave the hot dog, the pizza, and the Chinese food my friends and I would often eat in the evenings.
I had a sinking sensation . Was the boy I hit all right? Had he revived? What had come over me? How could a fight over a friendship band end up like that?
I retreated into a shell and did not tell my parents about what had happened in school. The police arrived at our house a few hours later and took me to the police station, where I discovered that the classmate had died; he had been declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
I am only 15 years old and very conflicted.
I had not wanted to kill. I was first booked under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) but that was soon changed and I am now facing murder charges.
The police investigation, I am told, points to a conspiracy of which I was a part. They scoured the CCTV footage and believe that we (I and other students) had planned to corner the student in the school toilet, that we waited for him to go the bathroom so we could follow him and thrash him.
I have always seen myself as a regular teenager. Fights are common, but a fight ending in the death of a classmate has left me shaken.
I am now asked why I did not escalate matters to the class teacher. There are counsellors and other staff members at the juvenile home who have asked me this question. They talk to me to see if I am disturbed; ask me if I’m depressed; if I’ve been a bully in school and in my neighbourhood.
How do I view myself?
I’m a typical teenage boy. As the youngest in the family with two older sisters, I have always got what I’ve wanted. I get pocket money whenever I’ve asked for it. I’ve been allowed to drive a two-wheeler even though I don’t have a license. I go to the movies when I want to. I love Salman Khan. My father has a government job. I have a friend whose grandfather is a police sub-inspector.
I seem to have taken my ‘privileges’ for granted. I don’t like ‘no’ for an answer. I didn’t like the fact that my classmate kept asking me to return the friendship band. When he repeatedly asked for it, I got angry. I seem to have been temporarily blinded by rage.
I have paid a price for that temporary lapse. I miss home. I dream every night about being back home with my family. My parents come to meet me once a week and all I want is to go back with them.
I am still studying in the reform home and have been taken to school in a police van so I don’t miss out on my exams. Once there, I am seated in seclusion and not allowed to interact with other students. As soon as I’m done with my examination paper, I’m driven back in the same van.
I feel like a criminal. I know now that there is a different law that governs juveniles. My bail application has been rejected because the angry family members of the student who died often come to our house and raise slogans. The police fear that I might be harmed if I am freed.
I am not sure how long the case will linger. Once the Juvenile Justice Board delivers its judgment, I may be sent to a special home or be asked to do community service, I am told.
I want to focus on my studies and pursue a course in hotel management. I have no previous history of crime.
My parents tell me they will change my school. May be I need to change myself too.
Will I go to my classmate’s home and apologise to the parents who have lost a son?
I don’t know. I don’t think I will.
This is the first of a five-part series, Let’s Talk About Teenage Violence. To join the conversation, tweet or post using #LetsTalkAboutTeenageViolence.