Jharkhand police doesn’t have exact figure of missing children who apparently landed in Maoists’ training camps but the number is more than a thousand. Sometimes some of them flee and surrender before police or are caught by police in the battlefield. The Maoists have been using them for their missions for decades. Recently Sanjeeta Kumari was killed by Jharkhand Maoists because she escaped the insurgents and chose to study.
This untold traumatic story comes straightway from underbellies of Jharkhand; this often goes unreported either to the police or the press. Often in the scary night, gun totting Maoists arrive to villages with a diktat that their children now henceforth would be recruits of Maoist militia to carry class war. These poor tribal children are picked from their homes, fields and even from the schools.
Parents under fear don’t inform it to police, and, they just forget because for a report or retort to such access; Maoists will brand them as police sympathiser and will kill them any day.
It is contrary to what a senior intelligence official told to Organiser that almost all top Maoist leaders operating in Jharkhand spend huge amount on the schooling of their children. It includes a top Maoist commander whose son studies at prestigious academic institution in Ranchi whose local guardian is said to be a known right activist whose pro-Maoist leaning is a public secret.
“It is a sheer dishonesty of Maoists that they want a good life for their children but make the life of other children a hell. Maoists are fast loosing public support and their cadre is on decline hence they recruit children. Maoists stuff their backpack with weapons while books should have ideally been in their bags. Isn’t it violation of right to education of childrens,” said ADG (operation) Jharkhand police SN Pradhan.
And if anybody tries to escape, Maoists eliminate them forever as it happened in the case of Sanjeeta Kumari of Gumla district last week. She was lured in the rebel fold when she was barely 11 years. After serving rebels for around eight years as a cook and then a militia taking part in several police-naxal encounters; she escaped from Maoists’ clutches to fulfill her dream of education. Maoist gunned her when she had gone to meet her ailing parents at her village in Gumla leaving a poster behind branding her a police informer.
On May 22, Jharkhand High Court had virtually slammed Jharkhand DGP DK Pandey for failure of police to rescue as many as 40 children who were abducted from villages under Gumla district. It was confirmed by five days field survey done by SP rank officials Bheemsen Tuti and Mrityunjay Kumar along with CRPF commandants in the rebel hit zones.
As usual poor parents who were tribals feared to report to police. A massive combing operation was launched. But the security forces could rescue only five children. In fact districts of Jharkhand like Lohardaga, Khunti, Simdega, West Singhbhum and East Singhbhum are littered with stories of Maoists recruiting and indoctrinating children.
“Maoists recruit children for many reasons. They are their future cadres for armed rebellion. They use children as spies, couriers, porters and foot soldiers as weapon forces because they can’t be easily doubted or identified. Children happen to be a clean slate and it is very easy to mould them. Recruitment is part of Bal Dalam of CPI (Maoist), a secret that these rogues will not admit. Many children have been arrested during police-naxal encounter in the past few years as foot soldiers. Girls have to please the leaders sexually. It is a Talibani style of functioning,” said a senior intelligence official.
An underage girl Maoist Mahali Kumari, the then member of notorious Kundan Pahan squad had revealed bare truth of sexual exploitation of underage girls. In one such encounter that took place at Baraini forest area of Latehar district in March this year with two extremists Aniruddha Singh and Praveen got eliminated. Security forces were surprised to spot a teenage girl Lalmani engaging them in a gun battle for hours despite she herself suffered deep bullet injuries in her thigh.
She was part of the Nakul Yadav squad of CPI (Maoist) in whose squad there are around 20 children right now. Many years back she was abducted by Maoists.
Jharkhand police doesn’t have exact figure of missing children who apparently landed in Maoists’ training camps but the number is more than a thousand. Sometimes some of them flee and surrender before police or are caught by police in the battle field. And sometimes it happens when their mangled body is returned by Maoists to their family with a keep quite order as it happened with Jirokan Lohara whose son Pardeshi Lohara (12) was abducted in September 2013 from Chuku Bandua village in Latehar district.
Within 48 hours after he was abducted by Maoists along with nine others; mostly minors; Maoists returned his dead body to the family for burial. Pardeshi was straight taken to arms training camp for a training of improvised explosive devices. Pardeshi could not fit the wire properly and the bomb exploded killing him on the spot.
Not only CPI Maoists but other splintered extreme Left wing groups like People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) are also posing grave threat to children in Jharkhand. PLFI having clouts in Khunti, Lohardaga and Khunti district runs number of schools in Khunti. It was exposed after arrest of PLFI sub-zonal commander Heera Singh last year. Interrogation revealed these schools were mainly opened to identify children for recruitment.
Khunti was gripped by a panic like situation last year when children of rural areas of Khunti stopped going to schools after PLFI demanded villagers to spare their children for the outfit. The then chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty and DGP Rajeev Kumar were forced to visit the district to ensure securities around the schools.
Recruitment of tribal children by Maoists had even topped the agenda of the BJP when tribal leaders of the party had raised the matter before Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram during national executive body meeting of BJP ST morcha.
United Nation’s annual report in 2013 on Children and Armed Conflict too has expressed grave concerns over Left wing extremists in Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and other states. They are jeopardising life and freedom of children and their family is also being killed. Human Rights Watch has revealed how Maoists have formed balsangams (village-level children’s associations) for children aged between six and 12 at naxal affected pockets.
Abha Bharti in Ranchi