Am I A War Child Or A Product Of The War?

But Perhaps it was not enough for the “shaken, not stirred” warmongers across the globe.
Am I A War Child Or A Product Of The War?
Am I A War Child Or A Product Of The War?
Joydeep Narayan Deb

On 7th June, Theatres in Kyiv reopened for the first time after Russia’s invasion. Artists of Ukraine had their own way to start the emotional yet political event with a touch of satire. They decided to play the air siren for a few minutes in the beginning and continued to do so throughout the program.

Art depicts life. What we do in life is what we show through art. What could be a better option than the air siren, which terrified the citizens of Ukraine for more than a year?

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida won the Booker Prize for the year 2022. Written by Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka, The book depicts the horror faced by Sri Lankans in the time of Civil War. The protagonist, Maali Almeida was a photojournalist during the time of war and was able to capture the falling dystopian society and its morals through his photos.

It is never the war that has won something in the end. One might conquer a piece of land, a monument or a treasure through a war but never won anything in the past, nor shall in the future.

But, What does Education have to do with it ? It is not the basic human need amidst war. Refugees seek shelter, water, food and most importantly assurance of their unharmed lives during war. Even after that education played a pivotal role in every society, every tribe or in every nation during the time of the war.  The attack on children amidst war continues in every region in an unabated way. Schools, Colleges turned into ruins. Children Parks turned into shelter houses. Libraries burnt down to ashes is nothing but an attack to humanity in a collective way. The Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini portrayed this side of the horror of war from a humanitarian ground in his novel “The Kite Runner”.

But Perhaps it was not enough for the “shaken, not stirred” warmongers across the globe.

A North Eastern State of India, Manipur has been troubled by civil war since May, 2023.  Manipur, sharing its border with Myanmar was declared Union Territory in 1956. Right after that, Manipur remained in distress with a demand of greater Nagalim. In 1970, Meitei tribe of Manipur was declared as the major ethnic tribe of the state and at the same time NSCN-IM led by Isac Muiva demanded that only Naga and Meitei people were indigenous tribes living in Manipur since time immemorial. However, Kuki people were divided into several other tribes such as Hadou, Hmar, Zou, Vaiphei, Gangte, Simte, Tiddim, Paite and Sukte.

Perhaps, this is a discussion for another day. But what should bother the readers is the fact that like every other region who faced or is still facing war in any way have suffered the same as Manipur in terms of education.

The invasion of Russia in Ukraine has affected 7.5 million children out of which 4.6 million children were forced to discontinue their education on several levels because of the ongoing war. Till the date, 29th May of this year at least 1888 educational institutions were bombed by Russia. 70,000 foreign students returned to their respectives countries because of the war. Education could never be the first priority for people living in shelters, bunkers while hoping for another safe dawn.

Another report published amidst the turmoil of Russia’s invasion states that till January,2023 almost 11 percent of all the schools in Ukraine are completely damaged due to air bombing.

The damage suffered by Education because of war does not stop only in Ukraine. We are well aware of what happened in Afghanistan. During the previous Taliban rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, women's education was severely restricted and often completely banned in certain areas. The Taliban enforced strict interpretations of Islamic law, resulting in the closure of schools and universities for women. This denial of education had significant consequences for women's empowerment, socio-economic development, and societal progress. Despite these challenges, efforts were made to rebuild the education system after the Taliban's overthrow in 2001, leading to increased access to education for women and girls. However, obstacles such as security concerns, cultural barriers, and conservative beliefs in some areas continue to hinder women's education. Ongoing efforts are necessary to ensure equal access to education and promote gender equality in Afghanistan.

The islamic fundamentalist group returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021, after U.S. backed forces were retrieved from Kabul. This time the Taliban was more cruel and strict with the laws. On September 17th, 2021 schools in Afghanistan were reopened but only for males.

Sri Lanka and Kashmir faced the same hurdles during the time of insurgency and civil war. The whole education system collapsed. Institutes were burnt down. Academic breaks were and still are unpredictable. Many of the minors were killed or even brutally raped during this time.

Since August 5th, 2019 Kashmir witnessed unprecedented shutdown after scrapping section 370 of Indian Constitution.

One of the prestigious international media houses published an investigative piece of journal on April 30, 2002 stating 0.3 million children were displaced due to the insurgency in Sri Lanka out of which 0.27 percent were Tamil students. The Sri Lankan civil war was a decades long armed conflict between the government forces and the separatist group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It was a deep rooted ethnic tension between the majority Sinhalese population and the minority Tamil population. Many of the children were the first victims of the Sri Lankan civil war.

The Battle of Mullaitivu (Jaffna) witnessed the same outcome in 2009. 15 per cent out of 600 people who went missing during the battle were children.

The conflict in Manipur is somehow similar to the civil war of Sri Lanka. It is an ongoing ethnic and political tension in the state. All the educational institutes were closed for more than two months. Education in Manipur grapples with a myriad of formidable challenges amidst the ongoing civil war, profoundly affecting students, educators, and the overall progress of the region.

The conflict disrupts educational institutions, rendering schools and colleges vulnerable targets or compelling their closure due to acute security concerns. Such disruptions precipitate a perturbed learning environment, undermining the continuity of education.

A considerable number of students, particularly those residing in conflict-ravaged areas or displaced from their homes, face woefully restricted access to education. Displacement and pervasive insecurity make it arduous for them to secure suitable educational opportunities, resulting in frustrating interruptions to their academic pursuits.

The enduring consequences of disrupted education during the civil war are far-reaching. The dearth of access to quality education undermines the development of human capital, limits employment prospects, and perpetuates pernicious cycles of poverty and inequality.

A senior in-house reporter of Pratidin Time, named Amarendra Deka was one of the few to provide on field reports of Manipur lately. Amarendra Deka collected bits and pieces from both sides of the cease fire. Although this horror has always been rich men’s war and poor men’s blood, this was not the exact scenario of Manipur. Here all of them suffered gruesome losses over the period of last three months. Amarendra Deka visited and prepared a report on the blood clenching violence that shook the nation to its core. It was about a seven years old and his mother who were burnt alive in an ambulance in Iroisemba, Manipur. Joshua, whose wife and son were murdered brutally in that incident was still present at the Assam Rifles camp at that time. Vivid reports of the incident were still playing in the walkie talkie in the camp. Was it really Joshua’s fault to suffer such devastating loss?

In all these events, education plays a pivotal role in tending to the wounds inflicted by the war, facilitating healing, promoting reconciliation and nurturing resilience within individuals.

But the horrors of war do not end here. There are millions of childrens around the globe who suffered mental and physical trauma because of war. A larger portion of these kids are malnourished because of war. Security forces often detained and tortured these kids.

Are all these war children another product of war or victims of the war? 

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