In the history of Canada, residential schools were known as institutions created in order to assimilate the Aboriginal culture. Children were physically and sexually abused, which resulted in leaving them with emotional and psychological trauma for the rest of their lives. Recent articles have stated that the PLFI (People’s Liberation Front of India), a group of rebels, are funding over a dozen residential schools in Jharkhand. To someone that has recently been studying the history of Aboriginal residential schools, this sparks a question in my mind; are the Indian rebels bringing back the horrifying events from Canada’s history, and will the children currently in Jharkhand suffer the same abuse associated to the residential schools in Canada?
In the article titled, “Face-to-face with Maoist group: PLFI claims it’s fighting corruption”, Hindustan Times describes their interview with the supremo of the rebel group, Dinesh Gope. This article explains that the PLFI are organizers of 16 residential schools meant to educate children of India since they believe the government is doing a poor job in doing so. Initially, I found it odd how the PLFI had chosen to call their schools by the same name as institutions that had been well known in Canada for their cruelty, when on the other hand, the residential schools in India were intended for helping the less fortunate. Furthermore, after researching the rebel group themselves, I found it even more suspicious how the PLFI were running a “welfare program” when the group itself is known for committing acts of terrorism. They “allegedly [killed] people by slitting throats, beheading, severing limbs and even chopping them into pieces,” according to Hindustan Times, and yet, the people engaging in this type of activity claimed to be interested in children’s education.
The Hindustan Time’s article reminded me of the Aboriginal residential school events for several reasons. Firstly, both the Canadians and the PLFI believed that what they were doing was for the benefit of people whom they considered to be less fortunate. The Canadians thought that Aboriginals were “ignorant, savage, and—like children—in need of guidance. They felt the need to “civilize” the Aboriginal peoples,” as explained by the First Nations Studies Program at UBC. Similarly, the PLFI believe they are doing “philanthropic work,” and they stated in an article that “the ‘levy’ they collect from contractors, businessmen and mine owners [goes] into a slew of ‘welfare programmes’ that help them connect with the people” (Hindustan Times). It is hard to believe that a group of terrorists are interested in the welfare of the community. However, what is understood from this article is that the PLFI believe they are working towards doing the right thing, which is similar to how the Canadians had assumed that they were also doing the right thing in trying to ‘tame the Aboriginals” and convert them to Christianity.
During an interview the supremo of the PLFI, Dinesh Gope, stated, “if we were a terror group, we would not have been growing so fast and earning the acceptance of all sections of society.” However, a villager suggests otherwise: “Dinesh told me to vote for the Jharkhand Party candidate. I told him the people would support a larger party and that we should support one of the two national parties. He repeated that we have to vote for Jharkhand Party.” This persistence towards the villagers sounds like the PLFI are not simply winning over the “acceptance” of the area, but are more like forcing the people to cooperate. This forceful method seems to be similar to how the Canadians had treated the Aboriginals.
Gope claims that the PLFI “only kill anti-socials and those who exploit the poor and gullible.” Is this a good enough reason to be excused from murder though? Despite them trying to help the innocent, their methods of dealing with problematic people are not acceptable. I believe that since these two groups of people have such similar intentions, they will end up coming to similar solutions. Although the PLFI believe that they are doing good deeds, they are still terrorists and are not safe people to be around.
I have researched about the impact that residential schools had on Aboriginals, and the scars that were left generations afterwards. I believe India should not take chances and that the possibility of education is not worth the risk for their children, especially since the PLFI residential schools are not dependable.
With all these similarities, it is reasonable to assume that the Canadians and the PLFI think alike. With the Residential Schools starting up, there is one last question to ask: will the PLFI be repeating history? If parents allow their children to be going to these schools, are they allowing their children to walk into a path of abuse?