Bob’s Banter: On Making of Child Criminals

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child-criminalsROBERT CLEMENTS

Another rape by a teenager takes place in Delhi and my memory goes back to another scene where a little boy wet his pants. He watched the policemen enter his home. He watched as they searched for his dad, who was hiding in the kitchen loft.

“Where is your father?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said and looked cautiously up at the loft. One policeman followed his eyes and pushed open the hatch door. The boy peed in his pants again as they pulled his father down and took him to the police station.

His mother had made the complaint.

They came over to my home that night. The little boy with his father and mother. They were fighting. They had been fighting the day they were married. “I complained to the police,” said the mother, “he hit me.”

I looked at their little son. He had his head down. He did not react as the parents fought with each other about women and affairs and unfaithfulness. He did not flinch as his mother spoke about thrashings and cuts and bruises. To him it was the most natural thing in the world.

There was no horror at incidents like this, they were part of his normal life. I knew that if the police came to his house again, he would never wet his pants.

Policemen had just become an everyday feature in his young mind.

Some double murders had shocked the people some years ago.

A young mother was killed in her flat, along with her eighteen month old grandson. She managed to crawl out of the blood stained house hours later and inform the neighbors before collapsing.

She was able to identify the killers.

All five, between 16 and 19 years of age.

The father of the dead baby ran to the police van carrying the accused. “How could you kill a baby?” he screamed in agony.

The whole city asked the same question.

Weren’t the five boys troubled to commit so gruesome a crime?

They were educated, all five, college students. They were from well to do families. Wasn’t there shock, terror, horror at such an act? After all they were not hardened criminals, seasoned killers.

Child criminals!

They came to me that night, the father, mother and the boy who had peed in his pants. I remember the expression on his face, as his parents lashed out at each other. Boredom and a couldn’t be bothered expression.

His days of being terrified of policemen were over.

His days of reactions to insults and foul language were over.

He was slowly evolving into what his parents were making him

A child criminal.

Robert Clements is a journalist and widely published newspaper columnist. His column Bob’s Banter is published in over 30 newspapers and magazines

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