Children may comprise 30 per cent of Maoist militia, says Watchlist report

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, January 26:

Children under 18 years of age may comprise 30 per cent of the Maoist militia, claims a report by the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, while adding children continue to be subjected to killings and maiming committed with impunity by both the Maoists and government forces.

The report — Caught in the Middle: Mounting Violations Against Children in Nepal’s Armed Conflict — was released today in the presence of UN Human Rights official Louise Arbour and other children’s rights activists. But it lacks quantitative data on children’s recruitment in the Maoist militia or on government using them as spies or informers. It claims the Maoists to have conducted both forcible and “voluntary” recruitment of children, and underlines the violations of children’s rights in the hands of security forces too. The 54-page report is largely based on secondary data and information collected from media stories, and reports prepared by several NGOs and INGOs, while some of the information is based on primary information provided by “reliable sources”.

Though the report says “girls are raped and subjected to other forms of sexual violence by Maoists and government forces”, it fails to provide any statistics on the victimised girls. The report, however, has quoted a 19-year-old Maoist recruit describing sexual exploitation recruits have suffer in the hands of their colleagues. She is quoted as saying: “Not only high-ranking leaders or activists, but sometimes we have to fulfil the sexual desires of activists and militia of our own level too.

Though this is against party rule, it is a fact for many women like me in the party. Sometimes we are forced to satisfy about a dozen a night.” The report has used Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC)’s data to state 286 children have been killed since the start of the “People’s War” in 1996. But president of the Central Child Welfare Board, Gauri Pradhan, contradicted it saying “400 children have already been killed, 500 seriously injured, 2,000 have lost either of their parents and 20,000 forcibly displaced from their villages.”

The report quotes figures from information provided by the Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN) — 54 deaths of children caused by bomb blasts, crossfire and other forms of violence; two suicides of children as a result of armed conflict; 77 children arrested and 6,689 abducted in the first six months of last year.

It has accused both the government and Maoists of turning schools into battle grounds. It states the Maoist have used schools to abduct as well as recruit students and teachers, while government forces have used the schools as barracks and for other purposes. The report has also warned of a rapid spread of killer diseases like HIV/AIDS among girls, who are increasingly vulnerable to rape, sexual exploitation and trafficking, as a result of the Maoist conflict.