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Maoists Now Recruiting Children: Preparing For A War?

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By Nitum Jain:

The Intelligence Bureau reassures that the Maoist problem is being curbed and the violence perpetrated by them has reduced by 65% and the killing rate has dropped by 78% as compared to past years. The question that looms over the country is: Are they really giving up or is this is just the calm before the storm?

It seems that the Maoists are forming garrisons and thus are gung-ho about their recruitment process. Their energies have been momentarily diverted to expanding the network to new areas such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in southern India.

Earlier, the Maoists had made the plan in 2004 Urban Perspective Document to generate support among students and the unemployed youths in small towns and cities. There have also been several incidents of forceful recruitment where children were kidnapped from their schools and made to join, and villages were demanded specific number of men to be provided under the threat of razing the entire region. The United Nations has displayed great concern over the situation.

“They have said that children were used only as messengers and informers but have admitted that children were provided with training to use non-lethal and lethal weapons including landmines,” the UN report said.

Another source of manpower for the group is the involvement of students from Universities and colleges and a number of NGOs who accommodate the Maoists.

Keeping aside the kidnappings, their mode of recruitment is actually a very systematic and well-thought-out process. It starts with regular ‘familiarisation’ visits to the targeted villages and question around about their grievances and disputes. The targets are usually small remote villages where there is a lack of government administration, thus making it much vulnerable so that the rebels gain control and gain a firm foothold. The second stage starts with the Maoists solving the problems of the locals, gaining a way to their hearts.

“If, say, an epidemic like malaria breaks out, the Maoists are the first to reach there with medicines,” says a local police officer. Being the ‘sympathisers’ to the distressed poverty-stricken villagers, the Maoists often find it very easy to enlist them in their ranks. The young, sadly, prove to be the most gullible targets where they are brainwashed into believing that they are doing an honourable service to their country and their people.

These sympathizers are first made to do small jobs like transporting materials for the rebels or sometimes made to commit small offences like blocking roads and vandalizing government buildings. The aim here is to make them fugitives from the law so that they have no one but the Maoists to turn to.

If the recruit shows promise then he is inducted into ‘dalam’ or local guerrilla squad (comprising up to 15 members each), trained to handle weapons, and made to commit a major offence. “From the time of his indoctrination, it would be two years before a recruit is allowed to commit a major offence,” says IG Santosh Mehra.

Maoists have also entered the field of digital media; they have already set up their own intelligence division in several urban centers. Some security officials have disclosed that the rebels have framed an internet-based campaign to garner fresh blood. Nine websites have been discovered by intelligent agencies that are pro-Maoists, like “Naxal Revolution”, “People’s march” etc, many of which have been shut down due to government interference.

The urban centers still persist where these Maoists send emails to potential recruits to enquire about heir qualification and background. The question often put forward to them is what they can give to the movement.

Readers would be forced to think, why would someone willing join such a violent movement where we frequently come across news of scores of policemen gunned down ruthlessly by these rebels? Ask the same question to the provoked village boy who wouldn’t hesitate to take a knife to the government, a system which never cared. Its stops being all black and white when you are neglected so much that survival becomes a task; for them joining the rebellion become an outlet, no matter right or wrong, to show you how they feel. Not to forget, couple that with politicizing of the entire situation.

The writer is the Sub-Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz and a student of English from University of Delhi.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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