Fear among students has forced many parents to change their schools.

 

NEW DELHI: On Wednesday, Rihan Saifi, a student of class 10, appeared for his science examination after missing two examinations scheduled on 26 and 29 February due to the deadly communal violence that broke out in northeast Delhi on 23 February.

“All my preparations went in vain. I am not even able to concentrate on my studies. There is a fear and tension everywhere,” Saifi said.

“No one even dares to go to school alone. We go to school in groups as anything can happen,” Saifi added. Like Saifi, many other students whose families have suffered in the riots are also going through the same trauma and horror of riots.

“I will not go to school. Maine suna hai ki waha pant khol ke dekhte hai Hindu hai ya Muslim, aur maarte hai (I have heard that there, people ask to take off pants to identify religion and then start beating),” Samir, a student of class 8 who studies in a government school in Gokalpuri, said. Samir’s family is one of those who were badly suffered in the riots. His home in Shiv Vihar was attacked by rioters and now the family lives in a rehabilitation camp in Mustafabad.

“We lost everything. We are living in this camp. Khane ka hi soche ya iski school ka? Sab Allah ke upar hai ab toh (I don’t know what shall we focus on, basic amenities like food or education of our kids? Everything is on God now),” said Anjuma, Samir’s mother.

Not only Samir, many others in the camp whom this reporter met shared the same feeling of terror and have not gone to school since the violence broke out. “What Samir said is not true as the situation is crawling back to normalcy. But what he said reflects the memory of horror in their mind. He might be saying what he had heard from people during the riots. It will hold true for him until and unless we address his psychological trauma and correct it,” a volunteer in the camp told The Sunday Guardian on the condition of anonymity. The volunteer also said that many NGOs are also bringing psychologists to address the trauma of children who have seen the violence. “Psychologists here try to address the issues of children and women. In this type of situation, it is children and women who suffer the most. So, they try every means like playing and reading to address the psychological trauma of children,” the volunteer added.

As many as five schools were burned to ashes in northeast Delhi during the riots. A resident of Brijpuri, an adjoining Hindu-dominated area of Mustafabad, a school named Arun Model School was set on fire by arsonists who vandalised everything from furnishers, classrooms to the library, sparing nothing. Manju Saini, who lives a few meters from the school, shared how her 12-year-old daughter, Riya, broke down seeing her school vandalised by rioters. “She was watching everything from our terrace. When she saw her school burning, she was crying like anything. We tried to console her by saying that everything will be fine soon and she will be able to go to school. But she was not ready to believe. It was only when my husband took her to school and she saw on her own that repair work was going on, that she seemed fine,” Manju told The Sunday Guardian.

In Karawal Nagar, another school named S.E.S Public School, was torched by rioters. Sanjana, a class six student of that school, told The Sunday Guardian, “I was at home when the violence broke out. Our school was totally shattered by mob and set fire on it. Since then, I have not been to the school. We could not appear for examinations as well. But we have not been communicated from the school about further plans.” “Since the riots, no one from the school said anything about examinations. I can’t let my daughter lose an academic year. I will soon admit her to a new school. Anyway, I don’t want her to be in that school anymore. It won’t be safe there anymore,” Sanjana’s mother Vijayendri Devi said.

The fear among students has also compelled many parents to change their children’s schools. The fear among parents is such that parents refused to leave after dropping their children at the examination centres and waited till the examinations were over. One such parent, Anita Devi, mother of Aniket who is in class 7, narrated her fear to send her son to a school located in a Muslim-dominated area.

“My son studies in Diamond Public School in Chand Bagh. He was in school when some rioters started pelting stones on the school. When the situation got worse, we got a call from school authorities to take him from school. It was a horrible experience to rescue your own son from a violent mob. Since then, he is not willing to go to school and is asking us to change his school. We too feel it’s no longer safe to keep him in that school as the situation is not the same as before. A small clash between friends in school may turn out to be something big and dangerous. So, we are planning to admit him in a government school which is much safer,” Anita Devi said.