Child soldiers have entered India’s Red Corridor in good numbers. Video CDs on Maoist training recovered by Orissa police on Sunday have shown the Naxalites relying on children in the age group of 8 to 15 to send messages, track police movements and fight the ‘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 the Maoists.
The CDs have originated from Naxalite-infested Malkangiri district, which shares borders with the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh and Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. Malkangiri Superintendent of Police Satish K. Gajbhiye told the Hindustan Times, “We have ample evidence of use of children by the Maoists in Malkangiri district. Several insurgencies across the country and organised crime syndicates also use children and this is nothing surprising. Since the children were raising slogans in Hindi in the CD, they definitely do no belong to Malkangiri district. Perhaps it was shot in another neighbouring state.”
Another senior cop told HT on condition of anonymity that no district SP would step forward to say that Maoists are using children in such large numbers under the officer’s jurisdiction.
On the raising of the Bal Sena by the Maoists, Patnaik said, “The state police and the paramilitary forces have already been told to take strict action against the use of children by Naxalite groups.”
According to the UNICEF, a child soldier is any person under 18 years of age 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 that ban the direct use of children under the age of 18 in hostilities and also prohibit military use of under-18s by non-government armed groups.
According to Gajbhiye, the child soldiers perform several tasks ranging from actual combat to the laying of mines and explosives, tracking combing operations of the police and spying. They also serve as couriers and carry out logistic and support functions for the Maoist groups.
Sources said Maoists are especially targeting children from poor families by promising them a future to live in dignity.