As families waited for their children to get home after school yesterday (January 24) afternoon, some of the kids were crouched under the seats of their school bus, struggling to stay safe, as violence raged outside.
A mob agitating against the release of the film Padmaavat stopped the bus in Bhondsi on the Gurgaon-Alwar Highway and pounded it with stones, shattering glass and raising hell outside, while 24 traumatised children hunkered down on the floor of the bus, trying to understand what was going on.
TV footage of three teachers holding on to the smaller kids, some of them sobbing bitterly and others staring in panic, played on in loop all evening.
Handful of goons can't be shown their place by our Govts..States & Central both failed?? Big question... why is this rampage only in #BJP ruled states ?? Interestingly the Govts the Mute SpectatorsSchool bus with children was attacked in Gurgaon by #KarniSena #Padmaavat pic.twitter.com/BNHsZizihR— K Padma Rani (@KPadmaRani1) January 24, 2018
Shame on you #KarniSenagoons. This act of violence mustn’t go unpunished Mr @mlkhattar. These cowards must be nabbed and brought to justice. High time PM @narendramodi stepped in ensuring safety of children from these fringe elements. https://t.co/rqtuXMB9x7— Om Tiwari (@iamomtiwari) January 25, 2018
Strongly condemn attack on school bus by #KarniSena in Gurgaon. BJP has given free hand to these goons for politics of Hindutva. #PadmaavatRow pic.twitter.com/C2bsQbo22H— Ashish Vivek Merukar (@AMerukar) January 25, 2018
In India, childhood is no guarantee of protection and safety - never has been. From the womb, where girl children are routinely wrenched out, to the everyday battle of growing up in deprived homes, large numbers of children face extraordinary challenges and threats on a daily basis: forced labour, abuse, trafficking, rape and assault - often by people they trust -hunger and death even. It’s a kind of war zone they inhabit.
Of course, we have seen heartbreaking images of children coming out of conflict zones Syria and Turkey - that are impossible to forget. But the war has reached our doorstep now.
The reality of school children cowered in terror in a bus as they are attacked by thugs - unfolding in our own backyard, not Chhattisgarh or Kashmir - is a sudden sharp stab that is hard to deal with.
This is the new face of terror that instils fear in the hearts of civilians, forces schools to shut down and make families wonder if their kids will return home safe.
The Karni Sena, which has been agitating against Padmaavat, want women to jump into the fire and hurt children so that their honour can be protected. But this is not about a film anymore. It is about a climate and culture that encourages private armies of young men who have been armed, incited and let loose on the streets to spread terror whenever civilians need to be put in place.
Some are hired to threaten or kill people who resist them, others are deployed in attacking minorities and Dalits. And now, children.
As these hooligans break the law with impunity, threaten internal peace and lay a siege on the state and civil society, lawmakers and administrators watch silently.
They are complicit in unleashing a war on the very people that brought them to power.
They deserve to be tried and punished now.
Also read: Has Modi government proven its incompetence by being unable to rein in Rajput Karni Sena?