Ranchi: With dwindling forces and unwilling parents, Maoists in Jharkhand have found a new recruitment strategy for child soldiers -- a lottery system.
Though the outlawed organisation has previously claimed that it does not recruit children below 16, the outfit however has boasted its 'bal dastas' or child soldiers, whom it claims have been ‘gifted’ by parents after being motivated by the organisation’s friendly approach, said a report in Hindustan Times.
In the past, the recruited children were majorly occupied in non-combat roles and were trained in computer and imparted other technical skills.
But falling numbers of the armed group has forced them to introduce children in more risky situations, following which parents have become sceptical in ‘gifting’ their children to the insurgents. Sexual exploitation of girls is also prominent.
The insurgents thus resort to other strategies to beef up their numbers including kidnapping and the lottery system, which they claim is a ‘less biased’ system of recruitment. In the 'lottery system' children are recruited through a lucky draw, where their names are written down in small bits of paper and are drawn in random.
Families with more than one child is usually forced to 'gift' one child to the ‘cause’.
The tactics has created an environment of fear and insecurity in Naxal held areas and parents send their children away to distant relatives. So, there is virtually no teenager in Naxal areas.
And once a Maoist foot soldier, it is never easy to get back into the mainstream. People who wish to put the combat life behind are accused of being police informants and are killed. Elaborating on his daughter’s plight who was forcibly taken away when she was 11, 38-year-old Fandu Munda said, “Six years later when she abandoned the rebel outfit to start life afresh, they accused her of being a police informer and killed her.”
The lack of access to police stations in the Maoist stronghold makes it impossible to file police complaints, resulting in no records with regards to abducted and forced child combatants.
While NGOs and state government make impassioned appeal to leave the children alone, villagers buckle under their own helplessness. “Police come like guests and go. We are left at the mercy of the Maoists. Challenging their decision invites punishment, hence I have driven my husband and children away to a nearby town and stay alone here,” said a government teacher.