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Orissa wakes up to Maoist boy brigades
April 29, 2008 13:11 IST
With reports that Maoists were targeting poor children, especially school dropouts, to expand their base in the southern districts of Malkangiri and Gajpati, the Orissa government on Tuesday said that it would take the help of para-military forces like the Central Reserve Police Force to face the challenge.
"We will initiate action through para-military force and the local police to stop children from joining Maoists," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said.
According to police sources, the banned CPI-Maoist had targeted poor children and school dropouts to expand their base in the area.
"The Maoists have formed a Bal Sangathan," Malkangiri District Superintendent of Police S K Gajbhiye said, adding that the outfit had also added another boy brigade known as dalam to the existing boy brigades.
Sources said that though Maoists have their presence in 14 of the 30 districts in Orissa, they have formed Bal Sangathans in only two districts -- Malkangiri and Gajapati.
While Malkangiri Bal Sangathan had been active for some time, a similar organisation in Gajapati district was in the formative stage.
Only seven children from north-central police range comprising Deogarh, Sambalpur, Dhenkanal and Angul districts, had, however, joined the CPI (ML-Janashakri).
While three boys recently surrendered before the police, three others had already left the outfit. "Only one child could be in the Maoist cadre in north-central zone," said DIG Arun Sarangi.
Senior officers engaged in anti-Maoist operations said that this was part of the strategy adopted by the red radicals to use children to gather information.
"Since nobody suspects children, they collect information about the movement of security personnel, by posing as rag pickers and roadside hawkers in urban pockets," said an officer, adding that Maoist leaders also use children for carrying letters and other information.
The modus operandi adopted by the Maoists came to light recently when two boy Maoists surrendered. "The two teenage boys were assured Rs 3,000 remuneration per month," DIG Sarangi said, adding that the children also complained of torture by senior Maoist leaders.
Child rights activists, however, blamed the government for the situation, saying it has failed to provide education to children in tribal-dominated districts.
"Nearly 90 per cent of the children in Malkangiri are out of schools, making them vulnerable to Maoist's catch," alleged child rights activist Mahendra Parida. He alleged that the government failed to set up a child welfare committee in backward districts like Malkangiri.
CPI-ML-Liberation state secretary Khitish Biswal said that it was wrong to engage CRPF and security personnel to stop children from joining Maoists.
"Only education can keep the children away from Maoists," Biswal said, demanding more vocational schools in Maoist-affected districts.