Naked protest by Manipur kids against rebel abductions

July 29th, 2008 - 1:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Imphal, July 29 (IANS) Stung by the continuing abduction of children by separatists in Manipur, a group of school students stripped and marched on the streets here to protest the rebels’ drive to forcibly induct child soldiers. The naked protest Monday by a group of nearly 20 boys between four and eight years of age in Imphal East reminded the locals of the naked protest by a group of elderly women in Imphal in 2004 to protest the custodial death of 24-year-old girl Manorama Devi.

The children, many of them only in their underwear, carried placards that read, “We don’t want to be separated from our mothers”, “We want pens, not guns”.

Students in large numbers, most of them in school uniforms, marched along with the naked protesters to express their disgust at the latest trend of militant groups abducting children to swell their ranks.

Security forces in Manipur have meanwhile arrested seven people said to be involved in the sensational kidnapping of children since May, creating panic in the state ravaged by insurgency with 19 active militant outfits operating.

“The seven arrested belong to different militant groups and they were involved in the kidnapping of children for recruitment in rebel groups,” a spokesperson of the paramilitary Assam Rifles said Tuesday.

Since May 6, when the first two cases of disappearance of children came to light, militants have abducted up to 30 children from various parts of the Imphal valley, mostly from the vicinity of state capital Imphal.

Some of the rebel groups, mainly the two factions of the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), have admitted having children in their ranks and claimed the kids have joined the group of their own volition.

The authorities in Manipur have rejected rebel claims of the children joining them on their own.

“The kidnapping of children by militant groups indicate they are getting desperate. It clearly means the rebel groups are not getting mature people to join their ranks,” Manipur Director General of Police Y. Joykumar Singh said.

The action by the militants has led to widespread condemnation with women’s organisations and parents resorting to sit-in demonstrations and other forms of protest across Manipur.

The state authorities have already asked parents not to let their children go out unaccompanied by adults.

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