Guwahati, Aug. 25: Armed with placards, children of Runikhata Bodo Girls’ High School in Chirang district today braved the morning drizzle and protested the recent killing of Class X student, Priya Basumatary, by militants while the All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) moved the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) over the incident.
Priya’s murder by the NDFB (Songbijit), the latest attack on children by militants, has not just led many to demand steps to protect children in conflict but the state government’s announcement to institute a bravery award in her name has also been questioned.
“In our memorandum to the NCPCR chairperson today we have raised the question whether the bravery award was a confirmation that she was used by our security forces as an informer. If that is the case, then our security forces have committed an illegal act by using a child in their fight against militancy,” Absu president Pramod Boro told The Telegraph today. Priya was dragged out of her house at Dwimuguri village on Wednesday and gunned down around 4.30pm in front of her parents. Hours later, a 10 to 15-member NDFB (S) group led by its “deputy army chief” B. Bidai posed in front of television cameras with sophisticated arms to announce that they had “executed” Priya as she had passed on information to security forces about the presence of five of their colleagues in the village.
Security forces had killed five rebels in the wee hours of Wednesday. Bidai said she had passed on the information through the boy she loved, who is a member of the Ranjan Daimary group.
“We urged the NCPCR to institute an inquiry into Priya’s killing under the Child Rights Protection Act so that her family gets justice. We also appeal to all organisations as well as our security forces to ensure that children and women are not used or are spared from conflict,” the Absu president said.
Chairperson of Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Runumi Gogoi, too, expressed shock and surprise over Priya’s murder and announcement of the bravery award.
“We can understand that the government tried to console the family by announcing financial aid and the award. But does the award not signify that she was really used as an informer by our security forces. I talked to the Chirang deputy commissioner and expressed our surprise. Both militants and our security forces must understand that they cannot, in any condition use a child in their fight,” Gogoi said. From bomb blasts by Ulfa or attacks by NDFB or those in the twin hill districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, children have often fallen victims to militant attacks.
The commission had earlier issued notices to the state government over militant attacks on children, including in BTAD and those affected by militant attacks and riots. “Children who have seen their parents being killed or their houses being burnt down in front of their eyes go through immense trauma. We have seen many such attacks and this must stop,” Gogoi said.
Save the Children, an NGO, expressed concern over the repeated killing of children during violence in the state. “We must sensitise everyone to protect children in conflict areas,” state programme manager of the NGO, Rajan Mohanty, said here.
The NGO runs a project for children affected by militant attacks at Narayanguri and Khagrabari village in Baksa district in May this year when 45 people, including 21 children were killed.