Child Soldiers International’s Policy and Advocacy Director, Charu Lata Hogg, recently returned from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state in India, after launching our first report on the country: The impact of armed violence on children in Jharkhand.

The report is based on field research that we conducted in Jharkhand in 2015 in collaboration with our national partner organisation, the HAQ: Centre for Child Rights (HAQ CRC). We documented 40 cases of child recruitment by an armed group, the Communist Party of India (CPI) (Maoist), sometimes forcible, and six cases of rape and sexual abuse of girl child soldiers by CPI (Maoist) cadre.

The CPI (Maoist) is one of several left wing armed groups waging a ‘people’s war’ against the government, claiming to defend the rights of historically poor and marginalised communities. The government labels them as “Left Wing Extremists” and has conducted large-scale counter-insurgency operations against them. Too often, children are caught in the crossfire.

“To link our research to action for change, we started a dialogue about the impact of armed violence on children with the state authorities, who are responsible for ensuring that children are protected,” said Charu. “We shared our findings with the government and sought their views; translated the report into Hindi and produced an accompanying booklet outlining relevant national and international law on child protection which would help government officials, civil society organisations and members of the public understand their legal commitments to protect children who are affected by armed violence.”

Working with HAQ CRC, we brought together state police officials and child protection actors from across Jharkhand in Ranchi, the state capital, to present the report and booklet and discuss the findings. Charu spoke on a panel alongside Enakshi Ganguly, Director of HAQ CRC, and officials including Jharkhand Additional Director General of Police, S.N.Pradhan, who said that “A child is never a Naxal [Maoist cadre] in the eyes of Jharkhand police,” demonstrating a commitment to ensure that children associated with armed groups are protected rather than punished.

In New Delhi, the Chairperson of the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights spoke at a joint event organised by us and HAQ-CRC and declared her resolve to address this issue.

The events focused on ways to tackle this difficult issue, including the adequate resourcing of child protection services and improved coordination among relevant state authorities, and has put the issue firmly on the policy agenda. As Charu notes: “We’re grateful for the state authorities’ engagement with us and the findings of our research. The key now is for them to take this issue forward, and develop tangible measures which will prevent children from being recruited and provide better responses once they are released.”