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At least one child died because of the political violence in the 60-hour hartal held from October 27 to October 29.
Fourteen year old Mohammad Arzu fell victim to a bout of violence between Awami League and BNP factions in Chandpur.
Five other minors were injured in clashes during the same hartal all over the country – Sohail Miah, 8, was targeted by a crude bomb while picking flowers from a roadside shrub in Bogura; Rahima Akhter, 9, was caught in a blast while playing in a field in Jurain in the capital, while Rony, 7, and Milton, 8, of Bogura, and Sumon, 14, of Jhalkathi, picked up unexplodable bomb out of curiosity which blasted on touch.
All of these children were blossoming in a display of their childishness when they were attacked – they were playing, picking flowers or being curious about their surroundings.
These are perhaps some of the most direct ways of how children fall victim to the nonchalance of the political parties. Another, rather indirect way was pointed out by a little invalid boy begging on a lakeside bridge in Dhanmondi.
“Why do I need to know what is going on in politics,” said eight year old Selim, who bears stumps on all four of his limbs, “all I know is that no one is making sure I have food in my stomach.”
The invalid eight year old’s wisdom points out that political on-goings fail to give importance to what really matters – whether there is a little invalid boy rolling in roadside filth begging a few grains of rice, or children are going hungry, going uneducated, dying of sicknesses.
Political mayhem severely disrupts the education of children with schools staying closed, to be made up later with extra classes during weekends.
Aref, studying in class three in a private school in Dhanmondi complained to this correspondent that going to school during weekends annoys him.
On a hartal day, thirteen-year old Tithi got out of a coaching centre in Farmgate in the capital while her mother tried to hail a rickshaw.
Tithi told this correspondent that she lives near the Mirpur zoo, but had to make a long, arduous journey to Farmgate and return by rickshaw because her Junior Secondary Examination (JSC) is coming up.
“We have to change rickshaws thrice during the journey, and I am very tired by the time I get home,” said Tithi.
Journeying to and from coaching classes during hartals has also been proved dangerous as seen from the case of schoolgirl Antu Barua, 14, of Chittagong, who was hit by a cocktail thrown by hartal activists on March 28. She critically injured her eye.
All three of the children, Aref, Selim and Tithi expressed views akin to “we do not care about politics”. And they should not have to – they have much more important things to do – like being children. Yet all of them find the political situation of the country affecting their lives in multifold ways.