Child soldiers are the new weapon of terror outfits
Children in India are increasingly being subjected to full array of targets from groups like Naxals and North Eastern insurgents to join them as soldiers! The consequent fallout is devastating for the children as it is robbing them of their innocence, education and a thriving environment for growth and development. Historically, these problems were brooked mostly in African countries like Sierra Leone and Sudan but slowly and surely the phenomenon is finding its feet on the Indian soil.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that this exposure of children in war operation is mostly mothballed in India because of Naxalites and insurgents operating in North-East. These outfits heavily recruit children as Child Soldiers to fight against the country’s establishments. The Human Rights Watch recently released a report, named "Dangerous Duty: Children and the Chhattisgarh Conflict" where it talks about Naxalites’ drive to recruit children for all sorts of battles. This position is particularly prevalent in the strife torn states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, J&K, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. The recent Maoists’ operational machinations have mostly been in forming a Child Liberation Army (CLA). These children (around 300 of them) are trained under the cover of dense forest of Dhanbad and Giridih in Jharkhand and are provided with crash course in small arms. Apart from using arms, the children are also used as espionage by monitoring movements of security forces. The spokesperson of Jharkhand Police, SN Pradhan confirmed that with a plain message, "The Maoist rebels use children in their propaganda war against the government and security forces."
This trend of traumatic nature is a prolonged practice in Africa for many decades. This custom is abound in Africa, with half of the world’s child soldiers emanating from the continent, as per UNOCHA reports. At the minimum, the age can be as low as 7. The stark statistics are made more troubling by the fact that they are orphaned by AIDS, traumatized by war, driven by poverty, donated by their parents so that they at least get two square meals a day. The dark reality is prevalent in most of the Sub-Saharan African nations including Chad, DRC, Burundi and Sudan.
The recent flare up of child army in India that has surfaced following African example should finally open the eyes of Indian government. So far, it has done little to arrest with the problem. Our government must tick all the right boxes like it must act strongly to prohibit child recruitment and then follow it up by declaring child recruitment as criminal offense. At present 118 out of 604 Indian districts are shrouded with the problem. The UN Committee on Rights of Child in 2004 had advised our government for a thorough investigation into the matter. However, the allusion of child soldier, in our government legislation is limited only to J&K and the North-Eastern states. Most recently, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights have decided to raise child soldiers’ problem in Meghalaya and Manipur with the Centre. All in all, Child soldiers are not only a menace to the society but would become a major hurdle in counter-insurgency operations. These children in future can develop deadly diseases like AIDS and can also get addicted to drugs and alcohol or even become seasoned criminals – a lesson to be learnt from Africa.