The Maoists have constituted 'Baal Action Teams' to deploy school children in different capacities in their attempt to regroup the child cadres and boost their perceived military strength.
The BAT, a specialised school children unit of Naxal which has started operating in Bastar region from past several months, would also help the Baal Sanghams (children associations) and Chhatra Sanghams (student associations), that are already functional in Left wing extremism affected areas, intelligence sources said.
“The Naxals have been recruiting and using children in different capacities since the inception of the movement...it exposes children to risk of injury and death," Additional Director General of Police (Anti-Naxal Ops) R K Vij told PTI.
"Bal Sanghams and Chhatra Sangham were active for the past several years in the region. They use them as informers, messengers and even as shields during military operations," Vij said. He did not rule out the possibility of change in nomenclature of the children cadres.\
"We are continuously generating awareness among tribals in the region and by several means, like education and vocational trainings trying to prevent the youths from joining the movement," the ADG added.
A senior Intelligence Bureau official said that four months back security forces received documents in Kondagaon, Bastar and Narayanpur districts of south Chhattisgarh, which revealed that Maoists were organising 'Baal Action Teams' to gather intelligence and to expand propaganda.
As per the documents, intensified combing operations by security forces had made it difficult for adult members to gather information; so school-children, including girls, were being recruited.
According to sources, there is no direct forced recruitment of children in armed squads (Dalam). Children in the age group of six and twelve are organised into Baal Sanghams; depending on aptitude, a child is "promoted to other wings such as 'Sanghams' (village-level associations), Chaitanya Natya Manch (street-theater troupes), Jan Militias (armed informers who travel with Dalams) and Dalams.
"With changing times, Maoist would have been thinking to extinguish the traditional trends and form such new teams for youngsters," the IB official said on condition of anonymity.
"Prima-facie it appears that Baal Action Teams are meant for gathering intelligence and spreading the propaganda, but its future can not be predicted," the official added.
On being asked how children were shortlisted for BAT, the official said, almost all the children on a school roll are included initially and later brainwashed.