New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today released its report, “India’s Child Soldiers”, the first ever comprehensive study on the subject in India, and accused the Government of India of defending the records of the armed opposition groups, officially designated as terrorist groups, on the recruitment of child soldiers before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. India in its first report on the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict to the UN Committee in 2011 stated that there is no recruitment of child soldiers including by the armed groups in India. The first periodic report of India will come for preliminary examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child during its 66th pre-sessional working group to be held in Geneva from 7-11 October 2013 while NGOs are required to submit their reports by 1 July 2013. ACHR submitted its report today to the UN CRC Committee.
“The recruitment of child soldiers by the armed groups including the Naxalites is rampant and at least 3,000 children i.e. 500 in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir and about 2,500 in the Naxal affected States currently remain involved in armed conflicts. This estimate of child soldiers is conservative considering that the Maoists follow the policy of forcibly recruiting at least one cadre from each Adivasi family. ”- stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.
In addition to providing 11 cases of forcible recruitment of child soldiers by the armed groups, Asian Centre for Human Rights presented a number of photographs of child soldiers surrendering with their arms before then Home Minister P Chidambaram and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in 2011 and 2012.
“Regrettably, the State Governments of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have been recruiting children below 18 years as "boy-orderlies” under Section 60 of the Madhya Pradesh Police Regulation and deploying them for combat purposes. While hundreds of children below 18 years have been recruited as “boy orderlies” in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh over the years, the State government of Chhattisgarh on a complaint filed by Asian Centre for Human Rights before the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights admitted in June 2011 that there are approximately 300 “boy-orderlies” employed in the state police force at present and seven of them were posted with 4th Battalion of Chhattisgarh Police at Mana in Raipur. These children are not only denied the right to education but deployed with the forces who are engaged in counter insurgency.” –asserted Asian Centre for Human Rights.
Article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict states that armed opposition groups should not, under any circumstance, recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years and the government shall take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices.
The Government of India, however, in its first report of 2011 stated that there is no recruitment of child soldiers by the armed groups as “India does not face either international or non-international armed conflict situations”.
“This position of the Government of India is not only bizarre but also a case where the Government is actually defending the records of the armed groups on recruitment of child soldiers before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. India effectively protected the officially designated terror groups from condemnation of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the recruitment of child soldiers, a war crime under the international law.”- further stated Mr Chakma.
Asian Centre for Human Rights urged the Government of India to inquire as to why the recruitment of child soldiers by the officially designated terror groups was concealed from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and take appropriate actions against the officials who are effectively ended up whitewashing the records of the armed groups on the recruitment of child soldiers. [Ends]