Hand an 11-year-old a 5.5-kg hammer and she will show you how to bring down a section of a wall – especially the one which denies her colony kids access to a playground.
“Aim at the bottom of the wall,” says Pragya Indu to a fellow 11-year-old, Mansi Jain, who was struggling to swing the heavy tool. The two girls are neighbours in South Delhi’s Sheikh Sarai where they along with other kids in their colony have recently had a lesson in democracy and governance all involving a 5 feet 2 inches wall.
Wielding a hammer was, however, not Pragya’s first choice since she did opt for proper channels of communications. She had written letters to her colony’s residents’ welfare association president, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, and had met the local police in Malviya Nagar, and approached the land-owning agency all with a simple request: Restore the opening from one side of the colony so that children don’t have to walk on a busy road to enter the park.
Disappointed with the response, Pragya handed out an ultimatum earlier this month. In a letter to the Prime Minister and the Delhi Chief Minister she said if no action was taken within 15 days she will start hammering the wall herself. “It may take a year or so but I will not stop hammering the wall until the opening is created,” she said on Thursday, the second day of her crusade.
However, what started off as an example of innocent solidarity seems to have taken an ugly turn with parents claiming that the RWA president was instigating disunity among children. “The RWA president has accused Pragya of forging the signatures on the petition that has been doing the rounds for a year now. He is pitting one child against another,” says Pragya’s father Indu Prakash Singh.
Meenal Jain, another resident of the colony, also voices similar concerns. “Basically the Association president is putting pressure on the parents who in turn are putting pressure on the children to withdraw their signatures from the petition. He is threatening them saying he will file an FIR against the parents if they support the cause.”
Despite this turmoil in the adult world, the children are still keen on finishing what they had started – creating a children’s welfare association in their colony where they all get to spend their evenings outdoors, away from television and computers. The proof of it was visible when seven-year-old Manya Jain asked for her turn to hammer the wall. The fact that the hammer was taller hardly mattered to her.