Child Soldiers in India

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The military use of young children takes three distinct forms: children can take direct part in hostilities (child soldiers), or they can be used in support roles such as porters, spies, messengers, look outs, and sexual slaves; or they can be used for political advantage either as human shields or in propaganda. Throughout history and in many cultures, children have been extensively involved in military campaigns even when such practices were supposedly against cultural morals. Since the 1970s a number of international conventions have come into effect that try to limit the participation of children in armed conflicts, nevertheless the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers reports that the use of children in military forces, and the active participation of children in armed conflicts is widespread

India as a nation is facing a new problem concerning its children- emergence of children as soldiers in strife -torn states of Chattisgarh, 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. What was considered a problem in African countries of Sudan, Sierra Leone and other countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal has become a reality for India too. No information was available on how many under-18s were serving in the armed forces. There were allegations that children were recruited by government-supported anti-Maoist village defence forces. Armed groups, including Maoists and groups in Jammu and Kashmir and in the north-east, were reported to be using children. Children accused of membership of armed groups were detained in conflict areas. According to SP Gajbhiye of Malkangiri, India, the child soldiers perform several tasks ranging from actual combat to the laying of mines and explosives, tracking combing operations and spying. They also serve as couriers for the Maoist groups. Sources said Maoists are especially targeting children from poor families by promising them a future to live in dignity. Young girls too join such groups to escape being forced into early marriages and other kinds of exploitation. Violence by Maoists increased dramatically in 2005 in a number of states. The violence affected at least ten states, with the worst violence taking place in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Armed conflicts also continued in several north-eastern states (Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura) and in Jammu and Kashmir. A decade-long ceasefire between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN (Isaac-Muivah, I-M)) and the Indian government continued, but sporadic clashes took place and factional fighting between the NSCN(I-M) and the NSCN (Khaplang) claimed many lives, including those of children. A temporary ceasefire between the central government of India and the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) in 2006 failed to reduce violence, in which civilians continued to be targeted. Government:

* National recruitment legislation and practice
The minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces was raised from 16 to 17 years 6 months in mid-2004, although legislation governing the armed forces did not stipulate a minimum recruitment age. However, India’s November 2005 declaration on ratifying the Optional Protocol did not reflect the rise in minimum age, stating that the minimum age of recruitment was 16. The declaration did, however, contain a clear statement reiterating the government’s position that after enrolment and a requisite training period, personnel were sent to operational areas only after reaching the age of 18. Recruitment for the Territorial Army (reserve) was from 18, as was recruitment for various auxiliary forces including the Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Forces and the Assam Rifles. * Military training and military schools

A number of military schools and institutions, including the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), provided preliminary...
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