Maoists are forcibly taking away children from villages and using them as human shields against security forces, alleges a Chhattisgarh legislator, whose constituency is badly hit by Left extremist insurgency.
"Maoists are forcibly picking up boys and girls from their houses and schools in the interiors to use them as shields in the war against (security) forces," Mahesh Gagda, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Bijapur, told IANS.
Gagda, 33, who has Z-plus security cover due to the Maoist threat, says that nearly 100-odd villages in his constituency are now considered rebel strongholds. He says that the rebels run a parallel administration in the region.
"Maoists have completely halted development in about 100 villages out of 272 villages that form Bijapur constituency," Gagda said.
Bijapur is part of the mineral-rich Bastar region, which is spread over 40,000 sq km in the state's southern part.
"Kids in Bijapur are carrying arms, even AK-47s. Maoists deliberately put arms on children's body and then cover these with a school dress or other simple clothes to dodge police security and frisking. Maoist leaders always keep armed kids around themselves and whenever they want to kill anyone, they use the weapon being carried by the kid," Gagda said.
"The Maoist menace has reached its flashpoint in Bijapur. They are forcibly recruiting boys and girls in their rank and file and generally girls are also sexually exploited."
With schools being targeted by the Maoist rebels for recruitment of children as human shields and child soldiers, Gagda said he will ask the BJP government to open more residential schools in insurgency-hit areas where police escort can be provided to the students.
Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has a separate unit for the child soldiers, called Krantikari Adivasi Balak Sangh. In April, the Chhattisgarh government extended the ban on the Maoists and its six frontal organisations, including the Sangh, till 2010.
The Maoist insurgency has been described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as one of the gravest threats to the country's internal security. In Chhattisgarh, over 1,500 people have been killed in the insurgency since the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in November 2000