UN says concerned over recruitment of kids by ‘armed groups’ in India

Arul Louis (IANS)-

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed concern Monday over the recruitment of children by armed groups in India, saying the UN has verified “54 grave violations against 49 children” in conflict situations in India and the recruitment of 18 boys by terrorist groups in Kashmir in 2021.

A UN report on children and armed conflict released Monday asserted that 33 boys were detained by security forces in Kashmir for alleged association with “armed groups” — a euphemism for terrorist organisations — or on national security grounds.

The report said that security forces killed five children and maimed 29, of whom 19 were injured by pellets used by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

Four children became victims of “unidentified perpetrators”, seven in crossfire between “armed groups, and unidentified perpetrators”, and four in crossfire and shelling across the Line of Control (a military control line between the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir — a line that does not constitute a legally recognized international boundary, but serves as the de facto border).

The report said that two teachers were killed by terrorists in Srinagar.

Giving a global picture, Guterres’ Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said, “Over 19,100 child victims of grave violations during 2021 in the 21 country and regional situations we monitored”.

Guterres said that he welcomed “the legal and administrative framework for the protection of children and improved access to child protection services in Chhattisgarh, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha and Jammu and Kashmir, and progress in the creation of a Jammu and Kashmir commission for the protection of children’s rights”.

“But”. he added, “I remain concerned about the risk of child recruitment by armed groups in affected districts”.

Guterres said that India may be removed from classification as a Situation of Concern (SOC) in his report because of enhanced cooperation between India and the UN.

He cited interaction between Gamba and the Indian government, including an inter-ministerial meeting in November and the appointment of a national focal point to enhance the protection of children.

He welcomed the agreement for technical-level meetings with the UN this year “to identify areas of enhanced cooperation for child protection”.

The report listed Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Israel and the Palestinian Territory, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen as the areas where most of the grave violations took place.