A Post-Graduate Youth Of Zakura Studying In Central University of Kashmir Speaks To Faizal Aziz About The Deep Trauma Of Child Abuse
The recent incident in which a 14-year-old resident of Kangan was left injured and bleeding after his teacher beat him made headlines across Kashmir. The video of the child’s mother crying that her son’s eye has been injured because of the ruthless beating went viral in Kashmir.
For some days, people will condemn such severe child beating. But many will justify it even now, saying that beating is required to discipline a child.
Memories Of Childhood Beating
The incident touched a raw nerve within me. Memories of childhood beating by some teachers are a deep pain in my heart. So many years have gone by, but I can still feel the trauma of suffering the beating, or seeing friends or classmates being beaten.
Sometimes it seems to me that Kashmiri culture does not give adequate worth to a child. Every time such an incident comes up in which a child was beaten or tormented, it causes me great heartache.
The issue of the child is very close to my heart. Even if a child is six months old or one year old, you must give him respect and dignity. A child is born with respect and dignity. Why should any adult violate this blessing of the Almighty given to everyone equally?
But I am deeply saddened by what I see in Kashmir society. I find that daily, we violate the dignity and respect of our own offspring. We must remember that childhood trauma has deep, long-term consequences.
Now I am doing post-graduation at Central University of Kashmir. This issue is so close to my heart that over the years, I have been studying the impact of childhood trauma. I intend to do post-graduate specialization on the subject of child abuse.
Scars Carried Into Adulthood
I have found that globally, researchers have established that when a child goes through abuse, it impacts his or her mind for life. Many times, adults carry the scars of being beaten and humiliated as a child.
Some of my classmates and friends have told me that they still have nightmares about their teachers beating them. They don’t talk about it openly. But it happens.
In our society, people don’t acknowledge child beating. Those who have suffered it try to suppress the memories. But the pain is so deep that it is reflected in their dreams. My friends are young adults now. Some of them say that they still get panic attacks and nightmares related to the severe beating of childhood.
A friend told me that when he was a child, his teacher beat him ruthlessly with a stick. He sustained an injury, which led to some complication in his adulthood. He had to undergo surgery to deal with the complication.
The basic question is this. Why do we beat children? Is it as punishment, is it as discipline? Psychologists say that a child is conditioned by his environment. A child is shaped and molded by his environment. If a child is unruly or throws tantrums, study the child’s environment.
A Farmer Does Not Punish The Plant
When a plant is not growing well, the farmer rushes to see what is wrong with the plant’s environment. Does it need more sunlight, more water, more nutrients in soil? The farmer does not start hurting the leaves of the plant.
Imagine what would be our reaction if we saw the farmer hurting the plant because the plant is not growing well. We all will say that the farmer is mad. But we have normalized child beating. If the child has some wrong behaviour patterns, instead of studying the environment we start hitting the child. We think discipline is the only thing that is required for the child.
A Child Is Not A Punching Bag
But this is cruel. A child cannot be used as a punching bag for the angst, the frustrations of the adults around him. Whoever hurts a child is venting out his or her own negative energy. Beating a child is an outburst of personal negative energy. The child retains the pain of suffering that negative energy for a long, long time.
Some of my classmates and friends have told me that they still have nightmares about their teachers beating them. They don’t talk about it openly. But it happens
I am sometimes struck by the irony. When two nations fight, the whole world comes around to tell them – resolve your issues peacefully. When two adults fight, the whole society starts telling them – don’t be violent. Resolve your issues in a peaceful and non-violent manner.
But very few adopt this policy when it comes to child beating. That is why I say our society has normalized child beating.
How Child Beating Is Glorified
There is a Pakistani TV serial title Chal Parha. In the serial, a man talks about his teacher beating him. He says the teacher told him, “Beta ye danda, ye chahri jo aayi hai jannat se aayi hai.” At another part in the video, a Moulvi says, “Jis hisse par ustad ki maar pad jaati hai, tou qayamat ke roz jahannam ki aag tou kya, us jagah par jahannam ka dhuaan bhi haram hai.” The body part where a child is beaten, even the fires of hell cannot touch that part.
This is so deeply painful. Adults are normalizing child beating. I have heard these kind of things in Kashmir too. Many teachers, many adults use religion as an excuse to justify child beating. If beating is so wonderful, which don’t they advocate an adult beating another adult? No. They won’t do that. Because then another adult can come and beat them up.
So they restrict themselves to glorifying child beating.
I am extremely sad to observe that in some madrasas, there is the culture of beating the child. I wonder if this problem is specific to south east Asia, or it is a global problem. Our religion talks about treating a child with love and compassion at all times. But men use religion to rationalize child beating. Extremely sad.
When I was a child, I stopped going to the Darsgah because the Moulvi was very strict. He always used to carry a stick. He used to beat us with stick and also with shoes. I noticed this again and again – many teachers beat children without any reason. Yahan kyun khade ho. Shor kyon hai. There is no discipline on the road. There is so much shor on the road. Nobody has a problem with that. In ko classroom mein discipline chahiye.
The atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not dropped by a child. It was dropped by an adult. Do you remember the codename for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945 during World War II? This was the first nuclear weapon used in warfare, and the codename was “Little Boy”. I was struck by the strangeness. An act of unspeakable violence was given the codename of a small, innocent child.
What The Loss Of Self-Dignity Means
Many teachers don’t realize that beating makes a child feel humiliated. He loses his dignity. When a person loses his self-dignity, he always remains anxious and is prone to depression.
How can we expect a child to learn if he constantly feels humiliated? Learning must always be a very comfortable process. It must never be forced.
The mother of the injured boy in Kangan is a brave woman. She spoke of her son’s beating. We know that there are thousands of cases of child beating that are never reported. Nobody talks about them.
I was only in Class 2 or 3 when a classmate was beaten severely by a teacher. Blood was coming from his head. We all were so frightened to see him but we could not utter even a word.
In 1989, world leaders made a historic commitment to the world’s children by adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – an international agreement on childhood. Corporal punishment was abolished. But 33 years later, we have not learned the lesson in Kashmir. We still have a casual approach to child beating.
Child Beating Cannot Be Justified
I remember that a few years ago, a child in Kupwara was beaten severely with a heavy club. At that time, the incident caused a furor. A senior person of authority in the school management said that he condemned the teacher for beating the child, “but the child was very naughty”. Even in condemning the incident, the teacher was justifying the beating of the child.
Some years ago, I saw a documentary on German police officers who were investigating child sexual abuse. The German officers were so horrified by images of the poor children forced into sexual labour that the officers started getting nightmares.
Imagine the long-term trauma of the child who suffers abuse. He is not able to express himself. He is not able to defend himself. That is why such children exhibit severe behavioural problems as teenagers.
In the society, we observe problems of drug abuse, robbery, even rape. We do not realize that when a child is traumatized, he is going to carry his mental injuries into adulthood. If his self-dignity is violated as a child, he will have no self esteem as an individual. Then he is vulnerable to deep behavioural flaws like drug abuse or crimes like robbery, rape.
Adolf Hitler, Stalin – they were deeply flawed men. These men had a terrible childhood. They were abused as children. The consequences are there for the world to see.
Long Term Impact
As an adult, we are quick to judge a person if a person is a drug abuser or rapist. We must get to the root of the issue. What are the reasons for these criminal outbursts? The reasons need to be studied. When we fail to address issues of concern in childhood, the problems get transferred to adulthood.
In my neighbour’s house, the mother used to get angry at the child. Almost every night I could hear the child crying in fear. I could not sleep. In developed countries, such issues of child abuse are reported to the police. In our society, we turn a blind eye to such incidents, as if nothing has happened.
When the child is beaten, he feels that he is left with no dignity, no self-respect. Then he is prone to all kinds of negative behaviour. Koi bhi bole – Bhai charas pi le. Drugs le le. He may agree. This is because by beating a child into submission, you have killed his will to stand up for himself and say No
The society needs to deal with the issue of child beating pro-actively. We are ignoring this serious issue for too long. When a serious incident crops up, we talk about it. Then the hype dies down.
Sexual Abuse Of Children Ignored
We don’t take note of news of sodomisation. We have heard of so-called godmen indulging in child abuse on one pretext or another. But nobody takes note of it in the public space. There is no debate generated on it. We do not admit that even in the private space of the home, there is abuse going on.
Most of us have lost the skill of how to deal with the child. Over-indulgence is wrong. Harshness is also wrong. When we beat a child, it reflects on our own insecurities and weaknesses.
Perhaps because of my childhood memories of the teacher beating me, I get saddened even by cases of bullying. Even if I don’t know a person, I feel the pain. I get impacted by violation of human dignity.
When the child is beaten, he feels that he is left with no dignity, no self-respect. Then he is prone to all kinds of negative behaviour. Koi bhi bole – Bhai charas pi le. Drugs le le. He may agree. This is because by beating a child into submission, you have killed his will to stand up for himself and say No.
We say there should be no terrorism. But in the whole of south Asia, children continue to be terrorized. There is Bacha Baazi in Afghanistan, and in Peshawar in Pakistan. That is violence against a child. But societies have normalized it.
Never Traumatize A Child
After a few days, people will forget about the Kangan incident. Again they will say – Kabhi kabhi bachhe ko maarna zaroori hai. But that kabhi kabhi becomes very frequent. I have heard of incidents where in winter, some parents or family members use the hot burning coal of the kangri as a method of child abuse. There have been incidents where the child has been burnt with the coal. Or the child is kept isolated in a dark room.
I had a classmate who told me that he was doing his homework when he could not attempt a question correctly. His mother put a hot iron used to iron clothes on his leg. His skin got burnt.
Because of child abuse in schools, many children drop out of school. As adults, they try to suppress those painful memories. But even a small trigger brings all those memories back. They return to haunt us. The Maulvi who beat the boy in Kangan – perhaps he suffered child abuse when he was a child. He may be a victim of child abuse, may be carrying scars from the past.
Child abuse is very vast, very inter-related subject. Some teachers use bichhu ghaas to tourture the child. In some families, the home atmosphere is hostile towards the child. I have heard from many friends that some schools in Kashmir are the hotbed of child abuse. This is all so ruthless.
Sometimes when my teacher used to beat me at school, I used to think that I should die. Those teachers used to beat us even for small errors. There was such extreme fear. My education has been full of coercion and fear. Do we have to violate human dignity for the sake of order/discipline? As a society, we need to think about this.