Abhishek Tyagi, Tanvi Dhamija, Krishan were teenagers whose lives had little in common. It is their deaths that have a common thread. Abhishek was shot dead by his schoolmates and Tanvi and Krishan killed themselves with guns.
Not too long ago, the worst guilty pleasure a teenager could have was sharing a cigarette, sneaking out the family car, or going out binge drinking. Now, they have a chance to experiment with something deadly: guns.
Abhishek, 14, was gunned down by two of his schoolmates at the Euro International School in December 2007. A month later, in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, a 15-year old boy was shot dead allegedly by his schoolmate.
Air Cdr (Retd) Jasjit Singh, a security expert at the Centre for Air Power Studies, says the shootings mark a beginning. “It's the beginning ladies and gentlemen. And I am afraid we are yet to see the day when the numbers here in India of school kids being shot will keep increasing,” he told a conference recently.
Abhishek’s father, Ravinder Tyagi, is appalled by what he claims the callousness of his son’s killers. “If the two boys had killed him unknowingly they would have shown some remorse but on the very first day they confessed before the police,” says Ravinder.
“My son wouldn’t have died if the two boys hadn’t got hold of a gun,” he says.
Gurgoan's landscape has changed over the last decade. The boomtown on the outskirts of Delhi is flush with new money. High-rise apartments, shops selling real estate sit next to schools that cater to the children of the new rich: property dealers, traders, transporters, and landowners. Many of them would rather ensure their security with a gun than depend on the police.
Armed and at home
“Gun earlier used to be a show of land lordship. Today, it’s becoming a necessity for some people if they carry cash or if they are going into areas where there is nothing called policing. So it’s (gun) a luxury—it’s no more a show of land lordship but for personal protection,” says former IPS officer Kiran Bedi.
Tanvi Dhamija killed herself with a licensed revolver her father kept loaded at home. She was 17 and killed herself after her school asked her parents to come over.
“The gun was kept under a lock but a 17-year-old knows how to get hold of things. We think she was scared about her exam results and feared she wouldn’t score good marks,” says her uncle Sanjay.
Krishan, 10, blew his brains out with an illegal country-made weapon in his home at Phoolwari village in Palwal district of Faridabad.
Phoolwari residents say it was an accident and they can’t say how Krishan got hold of the gun. Krishan’s uncle, the sarpanch of Phoolwari, blamed the dead child’s fate. But the village’s secret is out: respectable homes have illegal guns.
Not person in Phoolwari was willing to explain how a 10-year-old child could find, load and shoot with a pistol without anyone in his family knowing. Kuldeep, who found his brother dead, reiterates what the village elders seem to have learnt by heart.
“I don’t know how he got hold of the gun—probably he found it while playing outside,” says Kuldeep.
The village would want the world to forget about Krishan’s death. The Palwal police charged the Krishna under the Arms Act after his death and say he bought the gun.
“From what we have found from our probe till now, it’s clear that the child bought the gun,” said H Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Palwal.
An accusation which arms control experts find bizarre. “To put Krishan’s name under Arms Act shows the complete ignorance and stupidity of the people in power,” says Binalakshmi Nepram, of the Control Arms Foundation.
Abhishek, Tanvi and Krishan died of guns but criminals didn’t shoot them. The danger was at home: guns.