CHILDREN OF WAR: The untold horrors facing children growing up in Maoist-hit areas of our country


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The Maoists, who have been indoctrinating children and using them for their missions for decades, recently suffered a setback to their catch-them-young agenda.

The rebels first deployed children as spies, couriers and most recently, foot soldiers – a trend associated with the Taliban or African insurgent groups. However, the death of a 10-year-old boy during a training session and subsequent escape of many other children from captivity reveal that their plans are going awry.

30 minute report aired on Headlines Today on January 4 and 5, 2014.
30 minute report aired on Headlines Today on January 4 and 5, 2014.

LINK TO THIS VIDEO:

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/maoists-children-recruitment-chhattisgarh-jharkhand-insurgency/1/334618.html

————————————————————————————————————————————–Pardeshi Lohra was one among the 10 people – eight children and two adults – abducted recently by the Maoists from tribal-dominated Bandhua village in Latehar, one of the Naxal hotbeds in Jharkhand. He was killed while planting a bomb. Around 48 hours after he was abducted on September 13, Lohra’s injury-riddled body returned home wrapped in a blanket. The parents were asked to bury the body and keep quiet. In the subsequent days, the remaining nine somehow escaped from the rebels’ clutches, but the harrowing experience has forced them to flee the village. “Lohra did not connect the wires properly,” said Bhamru (name changed) – one of the children who fled the Maoists’ captivity – referring to what the police believe is training in laying Improvised Explosive Device (IED) gone wrong.

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The villagers, according to the police, are facing such hardships for flouting the Maoists’ diktat by felling trees. “They had cleared some trees for agricultural purposes, which the Maoists had objected to. Enraged rebels asked the villagers to shell out Rs.5,000 per tree felled, something they cannot afford,” Michael Raj, superintendent of police in Latehar, said.

Those who defied the diktat got another option – one member from each family should join the Maoists’ fold. “According to the villagers, that’s why they abducted 10 people,” Raj said. Getting a tonsure ahead of his son’s funeral, Bhilokhan Lohra told Mail Today, “How will I make Rs.5,000? My son wanted to study.”

Though the village is located around 10km from the Herhanj police station, the police received news of Lohra’s death only 48 hours after his burial. The police and the CRPF men then arrived at the village and exhumed Lohra’s body and sent it for autopsy, which confirmed blast injuries as the cause of death.

The houses of those who escaped from the Maoists were locked. Despite the district administration’s repeated assurances that the escaped children would be sent to residential schools, where they will be provided with free food, accommodation and education, they chose to leave the village.

MAIL1“The villagers have little faith in the administration and are sure that such incidents would recur. We don’t want to make things difficult for us. Maoists have been coming here for years.

They demand food sometimes but never have they harmed us,” said Kaleshwar Lohra, a villager. District Collector Aradhana Patnaik said a special team was probing the incident. “We will, if need be, provide the villagers with new ‘pattas’ of land.

Freed trio stares at uncertainty

Magan (16), Ram (14) and Sudesh* (12) are clueless about what the future holds for them, but they know the worst is behind them. More than a year ago, the three were picked up, on separate occasions, at gunpoint by the insurgents and inducted into the ‘party’.

Ram was given a gun, and the other two cooked for the platoon. The memories of their time under abduction still fill them with terror – they recalled how their parents’ desperate entreaties to the Maoists for their release would be answered with death threats.

“Party members never said anything (to us). They only made me walk endlessly and then cook. Whenever I said I wanted to go back, I was abused,” Sudesh recounted. The trio was eventually rescued by the police, but is still being kept away from their families, because of a looming threat of retribution by the rebels.

As a stretched police force tries hard to “at least keep them healthy and secure”, the children await formal education; their future yet uncertain.

(*names changed)

Eyeing young blood to reinforce ranks

If the security forces are to be believed, Maoists are reeling under a severe manpower crunch – the fact that recruitment is low does not help. By abducting children, the red rebels are reportedly looking to reinforce their ranks with young blood. Says Latehar Superintendent of Police Michael Raj: “Since 2011, their cadres have dwindled owing to regular arrests and encounter deaths. By abducting children and training them, they get young blood with a mind that is like a clean slate, making it very easy to plaster their ideology on them.”

In the recent past, several senior leaders of CPI (Maoist)’s local hierarchy have been arrested or killed. They include:

1. Prabhat Mochi, member, Special Area Committee2. Anup Thakur, member, Special Area Military Committee3. Indrajeet, company commander of the Eastern Regional Bureau (ERB)-1

4. Pawan Ganju, zonal commander

5. Umesh Yadav, zonal commander

6. Shyamlal Yadav, sub-zonal commander

7. Shekhar Kurva, company commander ERB-1 (killed)

8. Naresh Kerwal, sub-zonal commander (killed)

Coping with silence

One of the eight children abducted, Bhamru (name changed) was with Pardeshi Lohra when the explosive the latter was reportedly trying to plant went off. The police say the Maoist abductors were training the children in planting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

Recalling the incident, Bhamru said timidly: “He did not connect the wires properly.” When we met him, Bhamru was wearing something closely resembling a school uniform, and was visibly reluctant to meet our gaze, perhaps still haunted by his experience in Maoist custody.

He was not ready to talk about it, and only revealed that his captors made him walk a lot. And that he walked for hours on end to escape them once out of their clutches.

The ghosts are likely to haunt him for a long time – especially as the administration has made no efforts to get the children counselled to help them deal with the trauma they have just experienced.

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3 thoughts on “CHILDREN OF WAR: The untold horrors facing children growing up in Maoist-hit areas of our country”

  1. Its really sad to hear that young impressionable minds are being put through such a cruel ordeal. Action is needed from the govt to put an end to this . I am hoping that the men in power read your article and do the right thing vs just playing filthy politics.

  2. This issue of preparing ‘young comrades’ in Maoist ranks has been very diligently prepared….this is a classic test case for the security establishment to take note and study the subject deep for better solutions. Afterall, the MHA, as shown in the video, has said that there are no exact figures of these young dreamers being recruited in Naxal ideology.

  3. Dear Jugal, kudos to you for bringing this it light. Really sad to see innocent lives being sacrificed for a callous administration and a manipulative mititant movement.

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