Almost every day a group of children—eldest among them not more than nine years old and youngest barely touching four— in a comparatively safer locality in Soura comes out on the bylanes of the residential colony chanting pro-freedom, pro-Burhan, pro-Kashmir and anti-India slogans. For hours they go on sloganeering and marching from one end of the colony to another and this has been a case for more than a month now.
With no play and no school for two months, children all over Kashmir are modifying their behaviour and emulating the happenings in the surroundings in their way of life. And protests and sloganeering are becoming two main ingredients of what psychologists term as modern "Child Play."
"Children's plays are based on the socio-cultural milieu. They don't remain immune to what is happening around them and they imbibe every bit of it in their own way," said Dr Arshad Hussain, psychologist. "These days they see sloganeering and protest and they evolve their plays around it."
The interesting thing is that the effect is widespread in both girls and boys. "The other day I was walking along an area to avoid clashes. Inside the colony slogans were raised on the mosque loud speakers and after a time they just stopped. As I was walking I suddenly heard a lone child murmuring Hum Kya Chahte Azadi. I looked back and saw a girl barely five raising the slogan from her big walled house. It was spontaneous and she was alone," said Sheikh Haamid a teacher. "This is the effect on children and it is happening everywhere."
According to experts the effect of political situation on the 'children's play' has been evolving right from 90s in the contemporary history. "During 90s we used to see children playing encounters, cross-firing, crackdowns, etc., and now it is turning to protests," said Dr Arshad. "So we will be seeing more of such things becoming common in our society."
In most of the cases children do not know meaning of slogans. At Soura most of the children playing out protests and slogans had vague idea of who Burhan was, what freedom is or where India is. The closest they knew about the situation was that they had some understanding of Kashmir.
"Most of the children develop abstract thing at the age of ten or eleven. At this stage they start to think creatively and try to get the deep understanding of every action they take," said Dr Arshad.
"Before 11, children have what we call Concrete Thinking and at this stage children understand only literal meaning of words. After 11 they start to think and grasp the full meaning of three or four worded slogans that usually has a deep history."
Though experts say it is normal and nothing to worry but they admit that effect remains forever.
"We usually take out peaceful protests after midday prayers and I have to ensure to take along my two small kids for it is the only outing for them these days and if I fail they throw fits all around," said a parent in Mallabagh.
"Recently I had to help one of them make a green flag after he saw some other kid bringing a flag and he wanted one too. I had to give in to his demands."
The experts say that situation is not worrisome but its long term impact can be at times unpredictable. "We as humans are made of memories. What we become is all due to our memories. When a child grows up he absorbs the memories of his childhood at a place in his mind where it makes sense," said Dr Arshad.
"If the situation becomes normal then the impact can be limited. However, if the situation continues to remain so then personality development is certainly affected," he said.