Mil­i­tants are ab­duct­ing chil­dren and us­ing them as sol­diers. Par­ents are in a state of panic.

India Today - - NATION - By Kaushik Deka

Des­per­ate for new cadres, in­sur­gent groups in Ma­nipur have be­gun tar­get­ing chil­dren for re­cruit­ment again, a prac­tice that is not new to the state. Fol­low­ing the ab­duc­tion of 10 chil­dren by ex­trem­ists in the past one month, par­ents are now scared to send their chil­dren to schools and play­grounds. “We are all afraid of go­ing out but still have to earn a liveli­hood. Why do they take away chil­dren who are needed more by the fam­ily?” says the brother of a kid­napped child. Like his brother, he too dropped out of school to help his par­ents who are daily wage labour­ers.

On April 7, three chil­dren— Chanam Ajoy­nao, So­raishem Naothoibi and Sa­pam Su­ran— were kid­napped by the Peo­ple’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Party of Kan­gleipak ( Prepak). The three boys, all of them 14, went to watch a foot­ball match at Atong Khu­man, 2 km from their vil- lage Sairem in Im­phal West dis­trict.

“We were promised money, shoes and mo­bile phones by some­one we know. So we went with him to Im­phal. Some other men forcibly took us to a mil­i­tant camp there,” said one of the trio. When in­tense me­dia pres­sure fol­lowed, the boys were re­leased on April 22 in no­man’s land along the Ma­nipurMyan­mar bor­der. The boy has been warned not to name the ac­quain­tance who lured them to Im­phal.

On April 21, 12- year- old Rahul Takhel­lam­bam, a Class VII stu­dent of Don Bosco School in Im­phal, was ab­ducted by mil­i­tants when he was go­ing back to the hos­tel. A mil­i­tant group de­manded a ran­som of Rs 3 lakh from the school man­age­ment for re­leas­ing Takhel­lam­bam. Three days later, he fled from the shack he was kept in and re­turned home.

There are 37 mil­i­tant groups ac­tive in Ma­nipur, with hide­outs in the jun­gles bor­der­ing Myan­mar. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice records, 66 chil-

dren aged be­tween eight and 17 have been kid­napped by un­der­ground out­fits since 2008. The ac­tual num­ber is higher, but many par­ents do not re­port to the po­lice, fear­ing ret­ri­bu­tion. L. Pan­galkanba Singh, 16, and Y. Ningthem, 18, both from Hao­rang Keirang vil­lage near Sairem, went miss­ing on April 14, but the par­ents have not lodged a com­plaint.

The modus operandi is sim­ple. Lo­cal agents of the mil­i­tant groups tar­get chil­dren from fam­i­lies be­low the poverty line. These agents, who are mostly from the same vil­lage and known to the vic­tim, take the child’s pho­to­graph and metic­u­lously record his move­ment. He is then lured with the prom­ise of a mo­bile phone, shoes, T- shirt or just a ride in a car. For ev­ery child, an agent is paid be­tween Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000.

While the po­lice claim to have beefed up se­cu­rity ar­range­ments fol­low­ing these ab­duc­tions, schools have also warned stu­dents and par­ents to take pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures. “We are do­ing our best to res­cue the chil­dren. At the same time, I re­quest the par­ents to mon­i­tor their chil­dren’s move­ment more closely,” says Rat­nakar Baral, di­rec­tor- gen­eral of po­lice, Ma­nipur. Chief Sec­re­tary D. S. Poo­nia ad­mits the gov­ern­ment is yet to for­mu­late a com­pre­hen­sive pol­icy to pre­vent re­cruit­ment of child sol­diers.

Child right ac­tivists in Ma­nipur be­lieve it is high time that mil­i­tant groups were sen­si­tised about the ill­ef­fects of re­cruit­ing child sol­diers. “No or­gan­i­sa­tion or po­lice ac­tion will stop this trend. The in­sur­gent groups must un­der­stand that it’s a gross vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights. The need is of a public up­ris­ing to make them un­der­stand this sim­ple truth. When­ever some groups of peo­ple, no mat­ter how small they are, have taken to the streets, these or­gan­i­sa­tions have re­alised their mis­take and re­leased the chil­dren. A statewide awak­en­ing will put an end to this prac­tice,” says An­nie Mangsa­tabam, state co­or­di­na­tor, Ac­tion Against Traf­fick­ing and Sex­ual Ex­ploita­tion of Chil­dren, Ma­nipur.





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