Don’t recruit kids: Manipur NGOs to rebels

July 17th, 2008 - 3:34 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Imphal, July 17 (IANS) There has been uproar in northeastern India’s restive Manipur state over recruitment of children by separatist rebel groups, with civil society leaders urging them to desist from the practice. “We are appealing to militant groups not to recruit children, we have asked citizens’ groups to be alert and we have called upon lawyers to take necessary steps to protect children,” Sobita Mangastabam, a spokesperson of an NGO collective called Women Committee of United NGO Mission, Manipur, said this week.

Reports of 13 children having been recruited by militant groups since May have come to light. Of these, four have been released in the past few days while the whereabouts of the rest are not known.

The NGO collective is planning to move Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Pratibha Patil, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and the United Nations about rebel groups recruiting child soldiers.

Sensation prevailed in Manipur with the disappearance of two little boys July 6 and a separatist later claiming the children have joined the outfit of their own volition.

“The two boys are bent on joining us but we shall not stop them from returning to their families if they want,” Bobby Mangang, commander of the little-known group, the Prepak Cobra Task Force, told a group of journalists who visited the rebel base last fortnight.

The two boys have since been freed by the rebel group.

Yengkhom Naobi, 13 and Angom Langamba, 11, missing since July 6, appeared before journalists in Bishenpur district, close to state capital Imphal, and declared they have joined the group on their own. The children are students of Class III and IV.

The children were paraded before journalists soon after their mothers had told the media that they were in the custody of the Task Force.

Now, parents of Kshetrimayum, a Class VI student, and Wangkheimayum Sohadeva, a Class V student, have said their children are missing since June 19.

The state authorities have preferred to maintain silence on the matter.

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