Child’s a child

Amnesty International (AI) has chosen the occasion of Universal Children’s Day to write an open letter to NCP (Maoist) chief Prachanda, urging him to end all attacks on civilian objects, abductions and recruitment of child soldiers as these acts badly affect children’s lives and violate their human rights. It also asked him to end all violence and intimidation as a follow-up to the three-month Maoist ceasefire that lapses on December 3. AI pointed out that school children are being denied their right to education because of the 10-year-old violence; among other things, many schools have been closed down indefinitely for security reasons, and many children have been displaced. Apart from physical deprivations, children are likely to remain traumatised for the rest or most of their lives, as the psychological scars of the war will continue to haunt them.

Indeed, this is not the first time AI has urged the Maoists to respect international humanitarian laws and to leave the children alone. On various occasions in the past, it has also called upon the government to respect international conventions on human rights, including those relating to children’s rights. Children are the future of any country, and that makes it all the more important to ensure their growth and development in an atmosphere free from fear, violence and exploitation. Though many rebel organisations around the world tend to recruit underage youngsters for various jobs, including fighting, this cannot be condoned, nor can the practice of abducting children, even though for temporary indoctrination.

Therefore, few can disagree with the organisations of school owners and others who have demanded that the schools be declared a ‘zone of peace’.

By the same token, it is also necessary for the government and the school managements to ban physical punishment in schools, as this evil sometimes causes serious injury to children. At any rate, corporal punishment should be banned with stiff

punishment for those who perpetrate it. And in extension, the schools said to be run for the benefit of children should be run on fair principles, for example, no exorbitant charges in comparison to cost. Without will power on the government’s part though, it is not possible. Meanwhile, it might not be realistic to expect a situation in which children are fully insulated from violence when the country itself is neck-deep in it. Therefore, to ensure the children’s rights effectively, the current national crisis has to be politically resolved.