Use of ‘child soldiers’ by HNLC & GNLA: A worrying trend for Meghalaya
SHILLONG, June 10 2017: With police reports suggesting that the banned militant outfit — Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) is in its last leg, the outfit has adopted the style of another banned outfit– GNLA, by recruiting 'child soldiers' into the force.
According to a Facebook post published by HNLC publicity secretary Sainkupar Nongtraw on June 7, the outfit has recruited as many as 13 youth under the age of 18 years for the 2017 batch, from different corners of the state.
It may be mentioned that this is not the first time that children are being lured into militancy in the state. In the last couple of years, there were reports of children being used by the banned Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) as soldiers and shield, the same of which has caught the attention of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCP).
Earlier this year, the HNLC reaffirmed its intention to stay underground and refused to surrender while claiming that they are offered much more from foreign countries, double than what the state government offers.
Sources informed that the youth who have been inducted into the outfit belonged to the age-group of 16, 17 and 18 years of age.
Meanwhile, when contacted Deputy IGP (Eastern Range), Meghalaya AR Mawthoh said that so far the police have not received any intelligence inputs on the recruitment drive conducted by the HNLC.
Commenting on the recruitment of boys under the age of 18 years by the HNLC, Mawthoh said the outfit must have lured the teenagers to join the group to fight for a lost cause, "But it won't be long before they realised their mistake and come overground."
"If the reports are true, then the youth will end up regretting and find themselves in a betel nut plantation, " Mawthoh said adding that there were cases in the past where underage boys who ventured into this path, eventually joins the mainstream after a couple of months.
The reference to the betel-nut plantation was made following the revelations of one of the HNLC cadre who surrendered before the cops recently whereby he stated that the cadres were asked to work in the betel-nut cultivation in Bangladesh owned by the HNLC Commanders.
Reacting to claims made by the HNLC on foreign funding, the Dy IGP said that "The revelation is nothing but an effort of the HNLC to show/brag about its strength which we all know is dwindling."
"The HNLC is a spent force. It has no money and it is on its last leg, it is not even operating from within the jurisdiction of the state. It's camp is based in Bangladesh," informed Mawthoh.
When asked whether any awareness programmes are being held in the rural areas to prevent the youth from straying, Mawthoh said that the police are working hand in hand with the public and discussions are being held from time to time with primary focus on this issue.
It may be reminded that on June 5, two HNLC cadres who surrendered before the East Khasi Hills police also belonged to the under 18 age group.
They have been identified Shibormi Suchen alias Bahduh (18 years) and Daimiki Chadong alias Seibor (17 years) from Jaintia Hills who joined the outfit in 2016.
Interestingly, it wasn't long ago when the United Nation's International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers was observed across the globe on February 12, 2017.
Featured image: United Nations News Centre