I read about the Columbine massacre sometime during the summer of 1999, a while after it went off the front page. A feature article in The Hindu Magazine described the whole thing in chilling detail. The actions of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, as they procured arms, planned logistics and then shot 35 people at their school, killing 12 fellow students and a teacher before shooting themselves.
The thing didn't make much news in India. Possessed of the Pardes/Aa Ab Laut Chalein mentality, Indians could convince themselves that this was yet another symptom of Sanskriti-deficiency, hot on the heels of divorce, pre-marital sex, teenage pregnancy, drug usage and homosexuality. "That will never happen here!!!" was the consensus. Not with "Bharatiya" culture and values.
The 2000's began to prove us wrong. For starters, India Today began to publish salacious accounts of schoolchild-sex in Delhi and Bombay (with Literotica-level titles like "Alma Amorous" and "Young Innocence Lost") which sent shivers down parents' spines (and resentment up mine. Why wasn't I enrolled at these Institutions of Iniquity?). High schools were increasingly known for the good life their students led, as opposed to how many made it to IIT or St. Stephens. And in the fullness of time, came the first nail in the coffin of the Sanskritic youth - the DPS sex scandal (or Dhamaka, as some pervert alliterators called it)
There was amazing response - "Moral messages", lengthened skirts, banned cell phones, concerned MPs (why were they not in on this?) and so on. None of which had any effect on two children from class VIII at Euro International (that name itself is a portent), who drove the second nail in with their gunning of a classmate because he was a bully.
The usual people have made the usual noises about "moral vaccums" and "violent media" and what not. About a hundred fingers are currently pointing westwards, decrying the "corrupting influences" of StarTV, FTV, Sony Playstation, Grand Theft Auto and MAD magazine. The victim's family has made some wierd noises, talking about getting justice at whatver cost. The killer's father has been arrested for being negligent with his gun and the two killers have been sent to Juvenile detention. Meanwhile, cameraman have been rushing to find the victims, their families, friends, friends of friends and people who might have 2 cents to put in.
Amidst this brouhaha, a few points seem to have escaped everyone.
Let's start with motive. The motive given out is that the victim was a bully. The result has been a debate of "Was victim such a bad bully?" vs "He had it coming", with the usual assortment of "Concerned Parents", "Child Experts", "School counsellors" and "Rajdeep Sardesai", each making appropriate noises.
All miss a crucial point - motive requires a clear-thinking mind that has a grip on reality as it is. The kids were teenage males. People for whom violent thoughts and words were a staple thanks to feeling testosterone for the first time. Who were feeling angst and insecurity, and who were developing a grip on reality outside their heads. These guys were in a fight with the victim, whoever started it and to whatever extent.
It is characteristic of people at this point to go into "Bastard I'll kill you" modes. During my class VI-X years, I went through several "Bastard I'll kill you" rages with respect to several people - including my brother. What kept me from changing my last name to Manson was:
- Sufficient knowledge of reprisals and real life consequence to minimize acting on those rages - when you know what's coming later, beating somebody's brains out isn't as good as it looks when Sanjay Dutt, Steven Seagal or yourself-as-Carl-Johnson do it
- Somebody with whom I could discuss feelings and emotions so as to get em off my chest, removing the buildup that needs you to act out those savage fantasies of throat slashing, shooting or bashing
- Activities that helped me zone out, forgetting those moments of rage
- I was also a wee bit overweight, which made running an easy option (a) for anyone who could see those rages forming
Egregious parenting. No denying it here. Let us see what Mummy and Puppaa here didn't do:
- They didn't impart a sense of real life and its consequences to their little laadla
- They didn't communicate enough with their teenage son to know there was a kid he wasn't getting along with, let alone a bully he wanted to kill
- They didn't, at least Puppa didn't, keep a gun in a place where an eighth grader couldn't get hold of it
- They didn't (This is incredible but true) go to see their son when news of the shooting came out. Not at school. Not at the station. Not even at the courthouse where the kids were remanded to juvenile detention before the preliminary hearing. They didn't see their flesh and blood when he needed them the most (till today)
Finally, the media. I have not mentioned the names of the shooters or the victim here intentionally - they're kids, and kids at least deserve some privacy. But you need not fear. Those seeking names will find them with a simple Google news search. The school has been open with names, faces, families - they even put I-cards on camera. And every newspaper and news channel has been merrily splashing the names in big, bold letters on their front pages and slides (with Euro International now becoming "a prominent Gurgaon school"). Meaning that the shooters - who unlike American shooters were content to take out one individual and not a class - will never have the anonymity needed to rebuild their lives when they have paid their debts to society and perhaps had a shrink set their heads right. And while murder is unforgivable, these two were kids. Not late teenagers, and not druggies or gang members. There's a reason minors are held not responsible legally for their actions. The media is morally and legally (according to this article) responsible for the destruction of two futures.
Childhood and puberty are possibly the most complicated periods parents and their offspring go through. These kids' pasts can't have been good - not if they led to this point. Their present is a nightmare no one would want to go through as child or adult. And their future, thanks to a headline-hungry media and people keen for 15 minutes of fame, is clouded at best.