During Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar’s incarceration, when many eminent jurists and prominent liberals were waxing eloquent about human rights, the importance of dissent, and other refinements of democracy, 11-year-old Golu was striving to escape from the clutches of his captors in some godforsaken corner of Jharkhand. Not many intellectuals—in fact, I doubt if there would be any—would be so concerned about the plight of Golu. For a simple reason: his tormentors belong to the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Of course, the Maoists and their overground supporters would dismiss all such facts as sarkari propaganda, but then only what they say is true; the rest is misinformation. There is a pattern here. When the horrors of communism started coming out in the 1930s and 1940s, the commies and their fellow-travelers debunked all such reports as bourgeois nonsense; ditto with the atrocities of Mao, Pol Pot, and host of others. The upshot: over 100 million people dead under communist regimes, the entire nations converted into prisons, secret police persecuting innocents, total state control over society, culture, literature, arts, etc. And yet the purveyors of the violent ideology, communism, have the gumption to masquerade as the champions of peace and liberty!
In India, communists have never held sway at the national level, but wherever and whenever they have been in power, they have ruled with an iron hand. The Naxal factions have been even more unscrupulous than the mainstream communists—and they have been downright brutal to boot. Naxalites, also called Maoists, slaughter CRPF and other security personnel and mutilate their bodies. Unsurprisingly, they have also prepared a brigade of child soldiers, Bal Dasta.
“The members of Bal Dasta, Golu told the police, are made to handle guns, apart from carrying equipment and cook,” Jaideep Deogharia reported for PTI on March 4. “Maoists have for long inducted the children of their cadres in the Bal Dasta. But of late, amid increasing pressure from security forces and losses in encounters, they have shifted their focus to children who live in villages that fall within the ‘Red corridor’.”
In Jharkhand, security forces have rescued many kids from the clutches of Maoists; many others have managed to escape. In April 2015, responding to media reports about kidnapped more than three dozen children children, the Jharkhand High Court had to issue notices to the Union Home Secretary and the police in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to bring back from Gumla and Lohardaga. Some of the children were rescued.
The abduction of children to be used as soldiers by Maoists is not a new phenomenon. India Today reported in May 2011 that the CPI (Maoist) was “increasingly using minors, some of them as young as six years of age, to swell its ranks and also as shields to circumvent the state’s attacks.”
The CPI (Maoist), the magazine wrote, has recruited nearly 400 children in the past three months for its children’s wing, Bal Sangathan. They are being trained in intelligence work and the use of explosives in the Saranda forests along the Jharkhand-Orissa border. “Children of different age groups are trained and assigned different roles. The new entrants, aged from six to 12, are initially used as spies and couriers. They are also trained in basic drills and armed with .303 rifles.”
Children above 12 are used as fighters, the India Today report said. “They are trained to make and plant landmines and bombs, gather intelligence and for sentry duty.”
And, typical of the Left, there was no gender discrimination: “Young girls participate in the same drills as the boys. They are trained to lead operations from the front. Trained in battle and field craft, explosives and intelligence, they can work with RDX cables and detonators.” Both genders are equally good as cannon fodder.
I don’t recall a single social activist who has expressed their disgust at the use of children as soldiers by Maoists. Activists vociferously defended the most brutal culprit in the Nirbhaya or Jyoti case for the ostensible reason that he was a ‘child’ at the time of the crime, but the violence against childhood doesn’t prick their conscience.