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Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - India

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - India, 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/498805f12d.html [accessed 29 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

REPUBLIC OF INDIA

Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 998,056,000
    – under-18s: 398,306,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 1,303,000
    – reserves: 535,000
    – paramilitary: 1,069,000
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 16
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government armed forces and armed opposition groups
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC
  • There are indications of under-18s in government armed forces as voluntary recruitment is possible from 16. There is widespread use of child soldiers, some as young as 11, by armed groups in various regions.

CONTEXT

Jammu and Kashmir has been the focus of armed conflict between India and Pakistan, as well as internally between security forces and various armed factions, some of which favour accession of the area to Pakistan, while others advocate independence for a reunified Kashmir. Northeast India has also been beset by internal conflicts for decades. Several other states have seen conflict involving leftist Naxalite armed groups, communal and caste-based movements and other private militias.

GOVERNMENT

National Recruitment Legislation

The 1950 Constitution (art. 51A) states: "It shall be the duty of every citizen of India ... to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so."851 However there is currently no compulsory recruitment in India.852 According to the 1972 National Service Act, certain persons can be called to perform national service but no minimum age is specified. The Armed Forces are governed by the Army Act, the Air Force Act, and the Navy Act, respectively,853 none of which regulate minimum enlistment age.

Information provided by the Indian Government indicates that the minimum age of recruitment into the Army is 16. "Persons who are recruited at the age of 16 years undergo basic military training for up to two and a half years from the date of enrollment and are then inducted into regular service".854 In its report to the Committee in the Rights of the Child, India claimed that, "children are not inducted into the armed forces and hence do not take a direct part in hostilities."855 During the 1998 session of the UN Working Group negotiating the Optional Protocol, the representative of India reported that: "discussion was going on within the Government about the possibility of raising the age limit for voluntary recruitment from 16."856 Minimum age requirements for various programmes are as follows: National Defence Academy (NDA) – 16.5; Selection Boards 18/19; University Entry – final/pre-final-year students; short-service commission (technical entry scheme) – 19; Women officers – 19 and restricted to officer cadre on short-service commission in certain branches. Less information is available on the recruitment of other (non-commissioned) ranks of the Indian armed forces. Recruitment into the Armed Forces is reportedly open to Indian nationals irrespective of caste, creed, community, religion, and region.

India also has a Territorial Army (TA) – a voluntary part-time civilian force consisting of departmental and non-departmental units raised from among the employees of government departments and the public sector. The TA is reportedly used in support of the armed forces in areas of insurgency.

Military Training and Military Schools

There are a number of military schools and other institutions such as the Sainik schools which provide preliminary training for school age students wishing to join the army at a later stage.

All regular students of schools and colleges may join the National Cadets Corps (NCC) on a voluntary basis.857 The NCC has 1,160,000 boys and girls in the Senior and Junior Divisions in the Army, Navy and Air Force wings.858 Cadets receive intensive practical and theoretical training in the use of arms and military subjects at NCC camps conducted throughout the academic year.859 A total of 499,677 cadets were reported to have attended Annual Training Camps during 1997.860 It is claimed that NCC cadets have "no liability for active military service."861 In August 1999 it was reported that the Indian Government ordered some NCC cadets to be deployed during elections, a task normally left to paramilitary forces. It was claimed that only students aged between 18 and 22 were authorised to participate in this activity, and that they were to be used "only at non-sensitive booths."862

Child Recruitment and Deployment

The Indian Government claims that even though children can join the armed forces, they are not formally enrolled into regular service before the age of 18. Since there is no systematic birth registration in some rural areas it is sometimes difficult to prove one's real age. Therefore it is possible for children to be recruited into defence and paramilitary forces.863

In Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian army has armed local Village Defence Committees (VDC) – primarily Hindus – in Doda, Udhampur and the border districts to assist security forces in anti-insurgency operations.864 So far more than 15,000 inhabitants, reportedly including teenagers, have joined these self-defence groups.865 At the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers in May 2000 the representative of the state government of Jammu and Kashmir denied the involvement of children in VDCs. He acknowledged that there may have been some instances of young boys taking up arms to defend themselves under attack, but that there was "no policy to encourage young boys to become members of the Village Defence Committees."

Government Treatment of Suspected Child Soldiers

The presence of children in armed groups has led to the targeting of children, "especially boys ... by [government] soldiers who believe that these boys might be supporters or future members of armed groups."866 Criminalisation of suspected dissident children has been problematic particularly in the north-eastern region. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture reported the arrest of a 15-year-old student from Manipur in February 1997 by members of the 57th Mountain Division of the armed forces, "on suspicion of having links with an armed opposition group. He was then allegedly handed over to the police on 19 February 1997 and kept in incommunicado detention. Late in the evening, his condition supposedly deteriorated and he was taken to hospital where he died the next day."867 In February 1998, 15-year-old Yumlembam Sanamacha was arrested and allegedly tortured by members of the 17th Rajputana Rifles. Two others – Bimol Singh (aged 15) and Inao Singh (aged 22) who were also arrested were later released.868 A local survey presented to the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers reported 28 children arrested or injured and 10 children killed in Manipur between January and May 2000.

OPPOSITION

Child Recruitment and Deployment

  • Armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir

A number of armed groups are active in Jammu and Kashmir, some of which favour accession of the area to Pakistan, while others advocate independence for a reunified Kashmir. The main groups include Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure); Hizb-ul-Mujahideen; the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM; formerly Harkat-ul-Ansar, HUA), the Al-Badr, and the Tehrik-e-Jehad.

During the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, a representative of the Jammu and Kashmir state government claimed that none of the armed groups had been using young children and that during the entire insurgency there had only been a few instances of children being 'bribed' to commit violence or being intercepted at the border by security forces. Sources in Pakistan suggest that while armed groups might identify prospective recruits at 15 or 16 (often from poor and disadvantaged families), they are generally over 18 by the time they infiltrate Indian territory or engage in operations. Zaki-ur-Rehman, chief of the Lashkar-e-Taiba says there is no shortage of recruits: "We train 600 to 700 men every month in the summer, and we have to turn many more away because we just don't have the facilities."869

However, press reports indicate that some armed groups have recruited "teenagers" for the conflict in Kashmir. In April 2000, Kashmir's first suicide bomber turned out to be 18 years old and the number of young Kashmiris crossing the line to receive training in Pakistan apparently rose sharply in 1999.870 In August 1998 alone, more than 50 teenagers headed toward Pakistani-held Kashmir were reportedly intercepted by security forces and the state police. Two groups of 23 teenagers between the ages of 14 to 18 were intercepted by the army in Kupwara and Gure sectors, while the state police detained a group of nine from Poonch sector in Jammu region.871

In May 1999 Reuters reported on 250 young recruits at a Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistani-held Kashmir: "All are Pakistanis from villages and small towns in Punjab and the North Western Frontier Province.... The training is divided into three stages: 21 days of small weapons training, wilderness skills and fitness. The boys are then sent home, where they are monitored by party elders to see if they are spiritually and physically fit enough to continue."872 During the Kargil

conflict in 1999, The Guardian described a young Hizb-ul-Mujahideen recruit, "baby-faced Mohammed Aijaz ... who puts his age at an improbable 18, is unwilling to admit that he did not make the cut for Kargil."873 According to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, recruits need parental consent to join.874 Young British Muslims have reportedly been recruited in Britain for training at camps run by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, although there is no evidence of these recruits being under 18.875

  • North-Eastern conflicts

For decades armed groups in Northeast India have been fighting Indian security forces and each other, in often overlapping conflicts and with competing demands for independence or autonomy. Children under 18 have reportedly been used by many of these groups as fighters, spies, messengers and in other support roles. One local survey estimated that up to half of all combatants in most groups are children, with the recruitment of girls increasing – sometimes for sexual services and domestic labour – to about 6 or 7 per cent of these children. The lowest age reported is 11.876 Government mistreatment of children suspected of being involved in these opposition groups has also been reported (see above). Children have also been victims of armed opposition groups themselves. In mid-June 1998, for example, ULFA fighters reportedly killed a 16-year-old girl alleging that she had been an army informant.877

Assam: Armed groups active in Assam include the Bodoland Liberation Tigers Force (BLTF), Bodo Security Force (BSF) and United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). One participant in a state level seminar reported that "hundreds of children have been separated from their families, physically abused, exploited and abducted into militant groups."878

Manipur: Different separatist armed groups, mainly from the Naga and Kuki communities, have been fighting state security forces or each other in Manipur since the beginning of the 1990s. The Maoist Revolutionary People's Front (RPF) and its armed wing, the People's Liberation Army (PLA), as well as other Maoist groups such as the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak and the Kangleipak Communist Party, have been fighting for Manipur's independence. The Kuki National Front (KNF) and its armed wing, the Kuki National Army (KNA), lead a separatist fight for the constitution of a "Kukiland", which would have autonomy within the Indian Union. The Zomi Revolutionary Organisation (ZRO) is a Pait armed group mainly opposed to the KNF/KNA. According to a local research project "there are child soldiers in every insurgent group in Manipur."879

Nagaland: Armed groups include the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). The Nagas, a majority of whom are Christian, have been engaged in a separatist war since 1953. Photos taken by the Political Editor of the North East Sun, who spent fours days inside council Headquarters of the NSCN-M, indicate that children are among the Nagas fighters.880 A journalist who spent two weeks in April-May 2000 with the NSCN-M faction reported that of the 250-300 troops in the group, "the vast majority were children between 13 and 17 years of age"881

Tripura: Armed groups including the Tripura National Volunteers Force (TNVF), the All Tripura Tribal Force (ATTF), and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) are fighting in Tripura against the immigration of Bengali people. Children have reportedly been used as soldiers by armed groups in Tripura.882

  • Naxalite conflicts, including in Andhra Pradesh

The Naxalite movement, inspired by Maoism, started in 1968 as an armed response to the oppression of peasants, workers and lower castes by the landlord class and upper castes. Although Naxalite insurgents are reportedly weak in numbers, the geographical spread of their activities is wide. The most active groups are the Marxist Communist Centre (MCC), the Revolutionary Youth Forum, the Parakala Dalam and the People's War Group (PWG). According to local human rights groups, 174 persons were killed in police "encounters" in Andhra Pradesh in the first eight months of 1998, many allegedly extra-judicial executions.

Amnesty International has found that Naxalites have "reportedly begun recruiting boys aged between 8 and 15. The boys usually come from scheduled castes or tribes, or socially or economically disadvantaged classes. Boys are recruited to the Bala Sangham, a militant children's organisation based in district towns such as North Telengana.... There are reportedly around 75 Bala Sanghams in Andhra Pradesh with over 800 children in their ranks. The People's War Group (PWG) founded the Bala Sanghams believing that they could train children more effectively than women to resist police interrogation. Tribal girls are reportedly used as couriers in areas of Adilabad and Dandakarnya. Organisations such as the PWG also reportedly use children to provide food and to deliver ransom notes without arousing police suspicion."883

  • Other groups

Several Indian states have also seen violence between Hindus and Muslims, resulting in the creation of Hindu extremist paramilitary self-defence groups linked with the Bharatiya Janata Party (the political wing of the Hindu ultra-nationalist movement) as well as Muslim self-defence militias such as the Jamaat-i-Islami-Hind and the Islamist Sevak Sangh.884

Human Rights Watch documented the workings of one such group, the sangh parivar, a collective of Hindu nationalist organisations. The sangh recruits young boys and men for local cells known as shakhas and provides them with extensive physical and ideological training for the purpose of instilling "Hindu fervour" and military-like discipline. The sangh has set up approximately 300,000 shakhas across the country, each with an estimated fifty to one hundred participants. Training reportedly involves physical fitness, patriotic songs, prayer and discussion of national events, but also the use of lathis (batons). One activist responsible for recruiting and training new members in Ahwa town, Dangs district, Gujurat from 1990 to 1995 reported, "There could be fifteen to 150 boys at a time, as young as pre-school children, ages five and six, up to college and above."885

DEVELOPMENTS

Committee on the Rights of the Child

In discussions with the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) the representative of India claimed "it was the militant groups which recruited children under 18 for military purposes, thereby violating Article 38 of the Convention."886 Shortly after, in its concluding observations on the Initial State Report submitted by India, the CRC expressed "its very serious concern at reports of children who are involved in and are victims of these conflicts. Moreover, it is concerned at reports of involvement of the security forces in disappearances of children in these conflict areas."887


851 Blaustein and Flanz op. cit.

852 Statement by the representative of India during the 1998 January meeting of the UN Working Group on an Optional Protocol, UN Doc. E/CN.4/1998/102, op. cit. para. 58.

853 Army Act, No. 46, 1950; Air Force Act No. 45, 1950; Navy Act No. 62, 1957.

854 Initial Report of India submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/28/Add.10, 7/7/97, para. 65; Statement to UN Working Group on an Optional Protocol, UN Doc. E/CN.4/1998/102, op. cit. para. 58; a Indian Army's website, which states that the minimum age to be a soldier is 16 years.

855 Report of India Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit., para. 264.

856 Statement to UN Working Group on an Optional Protocol, op. cit.

857 See http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/RECRUITMENT/.

858 Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India 1999, A reference annual, Research, Reference and Training Division.

859 See http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/RECRUITMENT/.

860 Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India 1999, A reference annual, Research, Reference and Training Division.

861 See http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/RECRUITMENT/.

862 Sharma, S., "1,700 NCC cadets to lend colour to polls", The Times of India, 1/9/99.

863 Research quoted by RB, http://www.rb.se.

864 HRW, Behind the Kashmir Conflict: Abuses by Indian Security Forces and Militant Groups Continue, op. cit.; Bukhari, S., "Militants kill 19 in Jammu", The Hindu, 21/7/99.

865 "Jammu & Kashmir: the new vigilantes: despite lack of proper training and sophisticated arms, Village Defence Committees are proving invaluable in the fight against militancy in the state", India Today, 11/10/99.

866 AI Report 1999.

867 Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Civil and Political Rights, including questions of Torture and detention, UN Doc. E/CN.4/1999/61, 12/1/99, para. 294.

868 AI, India: Manipur : the Silence of Youth , ASA 20/05/98.

869 "Where militants sharpen their knives", The Hindu, 31/5/99.

870 RB Children of War Newsletter, 2/00.

871 Joshi, A., "J&K teenagers taking to terrorism", The Hindustan Times, 17/9/98.

872 "Pakistani holy warriors kill for Kashmir", Reuters, 2/5/99.

873 Goldenberg, S., "Pakistan in turmoil at .climbdown'", The Guardian, 16/7/99.

874 http://www.lashkertaiba.net.

875 Laville, S., "Mullah linked to terror group fights deportation", Daily Telegraph, 17/8/99.

876 RB: www.rb.se; also Brett and McCallin op. cit.

877 US State Department Human Rights Report, 1998.

878 RB research. op. cit.

879 RB: www.rb.se; also Brett and McCallin, op. cit.

880 See photos taken by Dewan, D., Political Editor, North East Sun, http://www.angelfire.com/mo/Nagaland/sun5.html.

881 www.rb.se quoting Peter Standberg.

882 RB: www.rb.se; also Brett and McCallin op. cit.

883 AI, Children in South Asia Securing Their Rights, Report ASA 04/01/98.

884 Ibid. pp. 671, 715.

885 HRW, Politics by other means: attacks against Christians in India, Vol. 11, No. 6 10/99.

886 Summary record of the 591st meeting of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of the Initial Report of India, UN Doc. CRC/C/SR. 591, 18/1/00, para. 18. See also Initial Report of India submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit., para. 265.

887 Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of the Initial Report of India, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.115, 28/1/00, para. 63.

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