Guwahati, Sept. 4: Hong Kong-based human rights organisation Asian Legal Resource Centre has moved the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to address the threats faced by children in conflict zones in the Northeast by setting up trauma counselling centres.
Set up in 1986, the centre possesses general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN and has been lobbying on rights-based issues in Asia. UNHRC is an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for measures to protect and promote human rights around the globe.
The centre told the council that many children in the Northeast were suffering because of armed conflicts, while many were being recruited by rebel groups.
It said the council should engage in dialogue with Delhi to take measures to reduce threats faced by children in the conflict-hit region, including setting up of trauma centres, preferably in each sub-division, to assist children who suffered from direct or trans-generational trauma because of long-drawn conflicts.
The centre sought the council’s intervention to assist national bodies, like National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, and their state units to actively engage in the Northeast and help protect child rights.
“Insurgent groups recruit children by force in the region. In January 2008, the NSCN (K) had kidnapped 39 students from Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Though 32 returned home, the rest are reportedly undergoing armed training in neighbouring Myanmar. Manipur-based armed groups like the Kangleipak Communist Party-Military Council and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup, also forcibly recruit children to their armed units each year. According to Manipur police sources, at least 66 children aged between eight and 17 years, have been kidnapped and recruited as child soldiers by the rebels in the state in the last five years. The Ulfa also uses teenagers to ferry explosives and to detonate grenades. Cases of disappearance of children from the custody of state security forces are also common,” the centre said in a statement.
It said since 2008, at least 300 women in Manipur were left widowed by armed conflict. “As the women lack financial independence and were dependent on their husbands’ income, they were left with no option but to engage their children in work instead of sending them to school. Child labour also poses additional threats to children like sexual exploitation and trafficking.”
“Parents and guardians often refuse to report recruitment of children (by militant outfits) fearing that the state would brand them as anti-national elements. In addition, warring ethnic and political groups often organise strikes, affecting the mobility of children and forcing closure of schools. This affects their education and adds to the number of school dropouts in the region,” the centre said.