Our work in India focuses on the protection of children recruited by armed groups in the state of Jharkhand.

Case study

I grew up in the organisation learning language, science, mathematics and Mao’s ideology … As I crossed age 12, I was given a chance to choose the weapon I would like to train [with].

This 17-year-old girl had already spent over a decade in an armed group when we interviewed her in 2015. She had run away after arguing with her superiors. Terrified that she would face reprisals, she was in hiding.

We are working with the authorities in the state of Jharkhand to ensure that children like her are properly cared for and able to return to civilian life.

The issue

Across central India, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and other armed groups are waging an insurgency aimed at overthrowing the government. These groups say they are fighting to protect historically poor and marginalised communities, while the government designates several of them as terrorists and has launched counter-insurgency operations against them. Amid the violence, armed groups have abducted and recruited children as soldiers, sexually abused them, and attacked schools with landmines and explosive devices.

Our impact

Working with local partners, we have documented numerous cases of child recruitment and abuse by armed groups in the state of Jharkhand. We used these findings to open up a dialogue at the state level, bringing together for the first time government, civil society, police and child protection officials to jointly discuss and implement steps to better protect children.

What we’ll do next

Having focused political attention on the recruitment of children by armed groups in Jharkhand, we will continue to dialogue with local authorities on how to better protect the children affected. This will include strengthening links between local law enforcement and child welfare agencies, so that children who leave armed groups are not punished for joining armed groups but are reintegrated into their communities.

Background

The Maoist movement in India originated in 1967 with a peasant uprising in the state of West Bengal, and it soon spread. Today, armed groups with Maoist ideologies are active in 10 central Indian states. Poverty, discrimination and limited access to public services have characterised the lives of many communities in rural India, where the armed groups have drawn significant support. The Maoists are fighting to overthrow the current form of government which they view as exploitative and unjust.

Photo © Shubha Vashisht/Child Soldiers International