Minors turning combatants in Salwa Judum camps, says NCW report

According to a National Commission for Women report, minor tribal girls and boys are being turned into half-baked combatants in the Salwa Judum campaign against Naxalites in Chhattisgarh. The report, which was submitted yesterday, came into light in course of the Commission's investigations into the alleged sexual assault on women in these camps.

NCW members, Malini Bhattacharya and Manju Hembrom, who visited Salwa Judum camps at Dantewara district, have said in their report that many of the tribal boys and girls who have been recruited as special police officials to fight Naxalites "appear to be minors". "We are particularly disturbed by the way in which young boys and girls are being recruited as SPOs. Their studies are being disrupted and they are not getting any training that would help them in future with their livelihood,'' said the NCW report.

The report said the future of these SPOs is uncertain since the government would not make them permanent employees nor would they be able to return to their homes after having been in the forefront of the anti-Naxal armed resistance. It poses a question to the governments in Raipur and New Delhi. "If all they (SPOs) have to do is to assist regular forces in patrolling and in escorting villagers from one place to another, is their services so indispensable that they are being trained into arts of violence at such a tender age?''

In the past too, human rights groups have raised allegations that minors were being made SPOs at Salwa Judum camps. Although the report certified Salwa Judum as an indigenous campaign'' based on tribal peoples' will to resist the Naxalite violence, it, like several NGOs, has sought a "review of this campaign'' as it seems to have created more social problems than it has solved.

The Commission has expressed its inability to probe into the charges of sexual assault and rape on women inmates due to the "inability of the victims to speak freely in the camps.'' However, the NCW has asked the government to set up a commission to probe into these charges on the basis of material evidence the it has furnished.

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