Kids burn guns, declare love for soccer
Hundreds of children and their parents at a small village in India's restive northeastern state of Manipur consigned to flames scores of toy guns in an attempt to save the kids from imitating acts of violence.
"I hate guns, I love football" read a placard carried by a primary school student as he tossed his toy gun, a replica of an AK-47 assault rifle, into the bonfire on Wednesday at a local playground in village Keinou in Bishnupur district, about 20 km south of state capital Imphal.
Manipur, bordering Myanmar, is one of the worst hit by insurgency, with at least 19 odd rebel armies fighting for demands ranging from secession to autonomy. More than 10,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in the past two decades.
"Children in Manipur hear about militants and security personnel armed with AK-47s and rifles fighting each other almost daily. The burning of toy guns was meant to change the minds of children who play with such violent toys," Amarjit Yumnam, a community leader, said.
Until the other day, little Amar loved playing war games with his friends armed with toy guns - AK-47s and machine guns that resemble the real ones with iron pellets as bullets.
"There were several cases of injuries sustained by children while playing with their toy guns and in most cases they loved firing the small pellets at their friend's head," said Bimala Devi, a mother of two teenaged sons.
"Words like ambush, operations and war were often heard while children played with their guns. Such things would have a bearing on their mental state if they are allowed to continue playing with toy guns," Sharat Singh, a schoolteacher, said.
Locals in the village unanimously decided to hold the bonfire by convincing the children to give up their toy guns and even managed to get the support of shop owners who volunteered to burn their goods.
"This was done for the greater interest of the society at large and we are sure children would now take to playing football and other games instead of totting toy guns that come in from China," Devi said as her two sons stared at the leaping bonfire with their toy guns going up in flames.
"I think what my parents said was right," said Basanta Singh, a schoolboy, although with a little hint of regret as his near-lookalike 9 mm pistol and M-16 rifle twisted in the bonfire.