November 4, 2013

Recruitment of children by Maoists assumes alarming proportions

Hundreds of schools in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand's countryside are targeted by Maoists with a view to forcing the children to drop out and join their ranks. The little ones are mainly deployed for the job of planting bombs and landmines.
New Delhi: Maoists recruiting children to expand their ranks and reach is nothing new but of late the practice has become widespread in the countryside infested by the extremists. The ultras organize children in the age group of 6 to 12 into children's association (bal samgams), and indoctrinate, train, and use them as informers. They use children to gather intelligence, for sentry duty, to make and plant landmines and bombs, and to engage in hostilities against government forces. Children over the age of 12 years are recruited and trained in the use of rifles, landmines and improvised explosive devices. The Maoists operate in areas that are very remote. These are the areas where a large number of tribal communities live. "The Maoists themselves do not deny that they recruit children. But they say, they are recruiting children because children want to be recruited .... That is actually something that all groups like to claim that their cause is just that even children want to go into this form of justice," said Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia Director of the New York- based Human Rights Watch (HRW). "We do not agree. We believe that children should not be used in armed combat at all. And all armed groups should stop doing it immediately," added Ganguly. The Human Rights Watch, while dealing with the use of children in armed conflicts around the world, in its report also stated that the Maoists have carried out systematic attacks on schools in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand to damage and destroy government property and to instill fear among local residents. The Human Rights Watch has also documented that at least 34 schools in Jharkhand and 16 schools in Bihar were attacked by the Maoists during 2009. These attacks unnecessarily place students at risk of harm, and lead many to drop or to interrupt their studies. "The Maoists target them because they are symbols of state; they are often used for polling. You know, Maoists usually call for poll boycott. So the polling officer sits in those schools. So, therefore, they want to attack these schools," said Ganguly. "But, at the end of the day schools and hospitals, under the international law are protected in any situation of conflict. They cannot be targeted by anyone. So the Maoists are wrong and violating human rights law by targeting these schools," added Ganguly. The Maoist insurgency, which began in the late 1960s, has been described by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh as India's 'greatest internal security challenge'.

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