Tortured tender souls
VIOLENCE AGAINST KASHMIRI CHILDREN LEAVES SCARS, WRITES SALMAN NIZAMI.
Ten-year-old Farhat Ahmed is one of seven children in a family from Baramulla. His mother and father have a hard time earning enough money to feed the entire family, So Farhat shares some of their burden by washing cars to earn money for the family. With so many mouths to feed and so little income for the family, Farhat is not allowed to play with other children in the neighbourhood or go outside to play in his free time. And if he disobeys the rules, Farhat says, his father disciplines him with beatings. "Sometimes, when I come home late, my father doesn't let me have dinner. Once, he beat me so hard that he gave me a bloody nose and a cut on my hand," Farhat said. "I wash cars to make money, and if I come home without much money, he beats me and asks for more money" to help feed the rest of the family. Farhat's mother says she thinks that beating her children is not the best form of discipline, but she does consider it to be necessary and justified in some cases. Still, Farhat's mother says her husband sometimes goes too far. "I don't beat my children often. I love them. But sometimes they behave badly, for example, fighting with the neighbour's children. Then I will beat them," she said. "But when their father comes home, just seeing his children behaving badly, he starts beating them. There have been times when he has beaten them until they fell unconscious. And I ask him to please stop. They are just growing up. But he still does it." The family's acceptance of corporal punishment as a necessary tool of parenting is not unusual in Kashmir. The locals in Baramulla says it is common for adults in kashmir to discipline their children by beating them. But they further mentioned that attitudes among kashmiris are changing. Many kashmiri parents recognize that violence causes physical and psychological harm to children. Sharief Ahmed Bhatt State Programme Manager Save the children said the smallest group of those we saw corporal punishment as "a good way of bringing up children." Others saw it as a last resort if milder discipline has not worked. But another group, "a significant number of people, felt that all violence toward children was wrong," he said. "There was quite a high level within the communities that felt violence toward children was not acceptable that it is not a good way to treat children. However, alongside that, violence toward children in the community within their families was seen as accepted, widely used, and recognized." We interviewed Kashmiri parents across the valley about their views, and found that they were open to new ways of thinking. "People were extremely willing to discuss these things with us, both within the private forum of an interview but also in the public space of a focus-group discussion," he said. "People's ideas about violence toward children in the family were not fixed. They were flexible. People changed their ideas over the course of one focus group, and people changed their ideas over the time of the interview. We think that is very important for change. The remarks by Farhat's mother reflect a widespread view among kashmiri parents about disciplining their children. "People talked a lot about how violence is wrong. But they would say, 'What else can I do?' They would say, 'It makes me sad when I'm violent to my children.' Or they would say, 'I regret hitting my children. But what else can we do to make them behave or to stop them from being naughty?'.
In this frenetic world, parents have only one single mantra for their children : you must win and win only. And they are imposing enormous pressure on their wards. Have we ever thought what we have done or how we performed during our days of youth? Have we always achieved success in whatever we did? Have we always won laurels for our performance in school or college ? Sadly, parents tend to forget this and they seem to be guided by their sense of failure in their own lives. In fact, by subjecting the children to huge pressure, parents are becoming desperate to realize their unfulfilled dreams through their children. They have high expectations from children. They always want their wards to take up top position in whatever they do - be it studies or in sports. The children have to win always and they cannot afford to lose. It is a matter of life and death. You must not lose. Thus when a child fails to achieve success, he breaks down resulting in mental illness. Parents' outrageous reaction to children's failure damages their emotional well-being. In life, accepting defeat is an important lesson. It helps one to grow up and face realities. It strengthens one's spirit, makes one stronger. And this has to be inculcated in children by their parents. Unfortunately, today's parents are always rushing their kids, who just do not have time to enjoy childhood. Unable to put up with this rising demand on them, children sink into depression. Is not extremely unjust on the part of parents to put such pressure on children? Is not it inhuman to force children to perform only? Is this what we should do as parents? Are we not responsible for their depression and early burnout ?
'To Teach Them A Lesson'
When I asked Farhat's father about beating his children unconscious, he denied he had done anything wrong" When a father or a mother becomes angry and beats their child, they do it because they don't want their child to become a bad person," he said. "When they beat the children, it is not because of faults within the father or mother. It is because of something the child has done." Farhat's father also said that beating his children is the only way he knows to teach them to be polite to others. "When I go home and I see my children playing without manners, I slap them to discipline them and to teach them to be polite. Especially when the boys are naughty. This is normal. You must slap them at least two or three times to teach them a lesson," he said. But one six-year-old boy in Baramulla with scars on his face from being beaten by his father told me that his father gets out of control when he becomes angry. The boy, who asked not to be named, says he has learned only fear and guilt from being beaten so severely. "My father beats me with a belt. Several times he's beaten me so hard that he's broken my teeth. He's even whipped me with a cable," the boy said. "When he beats me, I'm frightened, so I try to hide until my mother comes and protects me. Sometimes, he also beats my mother because of me. You can see that I have scars near my eyes and on my head. That's from my father beating me with his belt." Sharief Ahmed of Save the children says that we focused only on attitudes about violence, rather than addressing the long-term psychological impact that violence can have upon children. But he says additional interviews were under way about domestic violence in Kashmir to try to answer those questions. He noted that kashmiris share a general understanding that beatings lead to a cycle of violence in which children who are beaten growing up often treat their children the same way. However, he said, "we certainly found evidence that it also works the other way. Some people experienced violence when they were young and therefore are very keen that their own children don't experience the same levels of violence. Some men who'd witnessed their fathers beating their mothers didn't want to do the same to their own wives." He concludes that one reason for the changing attitudes has been the return of Kashmiris from abroad after the improvement in the situation. He says Kashmiri’s who have lived for years in other countries have seen that there are effective, non - violent ways to discipline children and they have brought those ideas back to Kashmir with them.