Rahul Pawa . Bihar
In 2005 violence by Maoists (Naxalites) increased dramatically in a number of states, and tribal people became the victims of human rights abuses perpetrated by both Maoists and the security forces. The violence affected at least ten states, with the worst violence taking place in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Jharkhand and. According to the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), some 750 people – security personnel, alleged Maoists and almost 300 civilians – were killed in 2006. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2002, which had led to widespread human rights violations, was repealed in September 2004 by the government, but similar provisions were included in December 2004 amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. They were subsequently used to detain human rights activists working with tribal communities in areas of Maoist violence.
A key agenda on Rights of Children in armed conflict and Child Rights was ignored by child right activists, Governments and NGO`s. A new form of terrorism to India, wrapped in small packages “Child Soldiers” was unwrapping steady with bloodlust running deep within the society.
As I flipped through previous reports on the Child Soldiers in Jharkhand, I came upon this very interesting read “In April 2007 the Chhattisgarh State Police ambushed a 12-member strong brigade of armed Naxalites (a group similar to the Maoists in Nepal) operating near Dhanora village. In the operation, the police arrested two girls, respectively aged 14 and 15 years old, who were wearing school uniforms and were armed with old 303 bore rifles. When questioned, the girls confessed that they had been picked up from school by the Naxalites, and given a few days’ training on armed combat, before being sent out in the company of older members to fight against the State Police and the Salwa Judum, a State-sponsored private militia”
It`s rather unsettling to read about children being used as shields or pawns in an armed conflict but that’s a very sensitive issue that the Indian government has failed to engage upon. With many internal and foreign aided conflicts firming grip in India. It becomes ones prime priority to keep children away from all this hatred and anarchy “Talking about Child Soldiers I can’t help but think, about a book that was gifted to me in our school titled “Ignited Minds” by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. The book is about a powerful message to the youth about hope and determination and at the heart of Ignited Minds is the belief that the people of a nation have the power, by dint of hard work, to realize their dream of a truly good life.
In place where people resolve political squabbles with the pull of a trigger, Children have no belief in the power of “making choices” especially when the Naxals are on a recruitment drive, Their aim? Force schoolchildren to join the red terror brigade as child soldiers.
A UNICEF estimate says about 2.50 lakhs children have been recruited as soldiers in various capacities worldwide. In India no such studies have been done to document the life of these child soldiers.
Education is another casualty of Red Terror. Though children in Naxal-affected areas are keen to study their school buildings have been reduced to rubble by the rebels.
In Aurangabad what was once a government middle school bustling with over 800 students just few months back, had been blown up by the Naxals. Now the students of the area have no place to study. The children are now forced to brave the scorching heat and study under trees. When the rainy season starts even that will become impossible.
Emergence of children as soldiers in strife -torn states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam is alarming. India as a nation is facing a new problem concerning its children-. They are getting drawn into fighting both with rebel groups as well as security forces. What was considered a problem in African countries of Sudan, Sierra Leone and other countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal has become a reality for India too. children recruited by state or non state groups as soldiers is not as obvious as in other countries but we know there is an increasing number of children being drawn into active combat.
These children exposed to war and conflicts are one of the most vulnerable groups often forced to witness or perpetrate combat atrocities. They are scarred for life, their childhood shattered.