Friday, June 06, 2008

Child soldiers in Red corridor

Soumyajit Pattnaik, Hindustan Times
Email Author
Bhubaneswar, April 30, 2008
First Published: 01:02 IST(30/4/2008)
Last Updated: 01:09 IST(30/4/2008)

Child soldiers have entered India's Red Corridor in good numbers. Video CDs on Maoist training recovered by the Orissa police on Sunday have shown the Naxals relying on children in the age group of 8-15 to help them send messages, track police movements and fight "class enemies".

Children are also seen in the CDs accompanying gun-wielding Maoists raising slogans against the government. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has already ordered the state police to take "stringent action" against the use of children by Maoists.

The CDs have originated from Naxal-infested Malkangiri district of Orissa, which shares borders with the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh and Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. Malkangiri superintendent of police Satish K Gajbhiye told Hindustan Times, "We have ample evidence of the use of children by Maoists in Malkangiri district. Several insurgent groups across the country and organised crime syndicates also use children. This is nothing surprising. I watched the video CD, since the children were raising slogans in Hindi, they definitely do not belong to Malkangiri district. Perhaps the CD was shot in a neighbourng state."

Another senior cop told HT on condition of anonymity that the children were shouting just two slogans in Hindi and no district SP would step forward to say that Maoists are using children in such large numbers under the officer's jurisdiction. On the issue of the Bal Sena, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, "The state police and the paramilitary forces have been told to take stringent action against the use of children by Naxal groups."

According to Unicef, a child soldier is any person under 18 who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to cooks, porters, messengers and anyone accompanying such groups. There are international protocols which ban the use of direct use of all children under the age of 18 in hostilities and prohibit all military use of under-18s by non-government armed groups.

According to Malkangiri SP Gajbhiye, the child soldiers perform several tasks ranging from actual combat to the laying of mines and explosives, tracking combing operations and spying. They also serve as couriers for the Maoist groups. Sources said Maoists are especially targeting children from poor families by promising them a future to live in dignity. Young girls too join such groups to escape being forced into early marriages and other kinds of exploitation. Maoists also organize cultural shows to win over the impressionable minds.

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