By Brototi Roy:
A child is the bud that is yet to blossom, a bud that requires the right amount of sunlight, water and nutrients to reach its glory. A child is just like clay, that needs the firm but fair hands of his parents and elders to mold him into responsible adults. A child is the epitome of innocence and trust. A child is to be cherished, loved and taught with gentle care so that he can grow up to know the difference between the right and the wrong and walk on the path of righteousness. In a utopian world, that might have been the case. However, I welcome you to the harsh reality of today’s world with some startling facts and figures. And I did not even have to stray far to get them.
A Child Soldier is the term used for children below 18 years of age who are forced to be a part of the active army of rebel groups. They are “recruited” and taught to wield a gun at an age as young as 6.
In the small north eastern state of Manipur itself there are about 7000 child soldiers out of which 1000 are girls (CSUCS, Asia report, July 2000). Assam has about 3000 to 4000 out of which 10% are girls. Nagaland has approximately 10,000 child soldiers which children constitute 50% of the total insurgent strength of Tripura.
In the African countries like Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe, child soldiers are forced to commit murders, rapes, tortures and amputation. They grow up in an environment of violence and can never recover from it.
Almost every part of the world has used child soldiers at some point of time or the other. They have exploited the innocence of the children for their own vile needs.
Even though the international law strictly forbids the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts, around 3, 00,000 children under the age of 15 are direct victims with armed groups around the world. Children as young as 8 years have been found to wield guns and kill people. These children are taken away from their families and are kept in military confinements. They are given meager portions of food, virtually no class room education and are taught only the art of warfare. Their innocence is brutally taken away from them to be replaced by guns and bullets. They never get to experience a mother’s love or the sense of security that comes in a family. Many are killed in combats and the ones that live can never truly live a fulfilling life. These kids are introduced to violence of the cruelest kind. They are tortured till they lose all innocence and are forced to kill, the guilt of which they can never shake off. More often than not, they are sexually exploited in these military camps.
After going through such a brutal childhood, it can be very difficult for the children to go back to living a normal life, because they have never been taught the definition of “normal”. They have never been shown love, compassion or kindness.
Children are as impressionable as wet cement. Whatever gets imprinted gets concretized with the passage of time. Having been introduced into this form of livelihood from their early childhood when the discerning ability to tell right from wrong hasn’t developed at all, these children believe whatever is told to them, see whatever is shown to them, and repeat whatever is taught to them. Even as they grow up to become young adults, they believe and profess whatever was ingrained in them as children and this way hatred only keeps multiplying.
With scarred childhood and innocence brutally murdered, can these child soldiers be expected to become responsible citizens of tomorrow? How can we help to bring them into the mainstream society and restore what all they have lost? Post your comments in the comment box below.