Children Of The Tainted Sun
While your child complains about bad food in the cafeteria, they silently endure it all. While your child plays with a toy aeroplane, they practise shooting with an AK-47. While your child cries about heavy load of work at school, they go to war and live their life under conflict, daily. They are the children of misfortune... they are the child soldiers.
India, as a nation, is facing a new problem concerning her children: the use of children (minors) in war/conflict, which, hitherto, was a problem mostly in the African countries like Sudan or Sierra Leone and countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal. The problem has slowly clawed its way into India as well. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child 1989 (UNCRC) defines the child soldier as any person under 18 years of age who is recruited or used by an army or armed group. The use of children as soldiers has become a common practice in conflict torn states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. They are getting drawn into fighting – both with rebel groups, as well as security forces. A child whose basic problem should be whether he wants to play basketball or football is now being trained to work with rifles and grenades. Children being easy to train and mould are being used as pawn in conflict by rebel forces and the State. In most of the conflict-ridden states there are two types of ruling parties – State-sponsored militias and anti-State militias. For example, Salwa Judum was a State-sponsored militia in Chhattisgarh which aimed at countering the Naxalites in that region. The sad part is the magnitude of chil exploitation happens in both the parties; irrespective whether it’s State’s or the rebels’. Though government is trying to curb such practices and on July 5, 2011, the Supreme Court of India declared Salwa Judum as illegal and unconstitutional.
According to a startling relvealtion by the Asian Human Rights Commission:
In April, 2007 the Chhattisgarh State Police ambushed a 12-member strong brigade of armed Naxalites (a group similar to the Maoists in Nepal) operating near Dhanora village. In the operation, the police arrested two girls, respectively aged 14 and 15 years old, who were wearing school uniforms and were armed with old 303 bore rifles. When questioned, the girls confessed that they had been picked up from school by the Naxalites, and given a few days’ training on armed combat, before being sent out in the company of older members to fight against the State Police and the Salwa Judum.
Moving to the North East, it’s a widely known fact that a lot of children in Manipur are kidnapped and recruited as child soldiers against the Indian government. Over the past decade or so, these children have witnessed things that a child living in a metro can only watch on a silver screen. In a State ridden with intense armed conflict, the atrocities that these children have witnessed would send a shiver down your spine. Be it loss of the entire family, murder, rape, torture, mutilation of bodies and so much more. After witnessing the loss of their entire family the children are left with no option but of living a life engulfed with poverty and grief; they prefer to join the rebel forces for a better life. To most of them, that seems like an opportunity to escape from the misery that entails their future. While the government does not give enough to the victims of the slaughtered families, the rebels act as opportunists and become their guardians.
If we all diverted our minds from the tabloid sections in the newspapers, we would come across such grave issues. A few days ago The Hindu reported a story about boys as young as 12-years-old being lured and kidnapped by militant conflicts. In Manipur, which has a population of hardly 28 lakh, there are over 50 underground organisations. Since the older kids can protest and fight back, these militant groups are targeting kids aged between 10-12 years and training them for what they term as ‘war’. Most of them are trained to use heavy machinery and weapons but the kids who are unable to use them are forced to become sex slaves, messengers, espionages, etc. These kids have lost it all in the conflict between the government and these rebel forces. All they crave for is food, which is apparently their reward for obediently firing a gun. They are also used as scouts and to test the land for anti-personnel mines and other explosives. For these people, the loss of a child is considered minimal as they are more disposable than a trained cadre.
There are currently at least 118 of India’s 604 districts facing armed anti-state activities. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its report dated February 26, 2004, urged the Indian government to ensure that thorough and impartial investigations are conducted into the allegations of the use of child soldiers in India. However, the reference to child soldiers in the report was limited to the State of Jammu and Kashmir and India’s north-eastern states; the problem of the use of child soldiers may bemore widespread.
The youth of today is the voice of India. Renting movies like Blood Diamond and crying about the plight of children to your friends isn’t your duty. We thought the war to slavery was over ages ago, but these people live it daily. Each day they wake up praying, ‘Let it not be my child today’. As if, child sexual abuse, child labour and female foeticide weren’t enough to bring us global shame; hawse have now moved a step forward into recruiting children as soldiers of war. Bravo!
“Compelled to become instruments of war, to kill and be killed, child soldiers are forced to give violent expression to the hatreds of adults.” -- Olara Otunnu
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