The UN chief has expressed concern over the recruitment of children by separatists and Naxalites, saying they continue to be affected by incidents of violence between armed groups and the government, especially in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.
In his annual report on ‘Children in Armed Conflict’, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the UN continued to receive reports of the recruitment and use of children by armed groups, including the Naxalites, in particular in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
“Children continued to be affected by incidents of violence between armed groups and the Government, in particular in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, as well as tensions in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
According to government information, at least 30 schools were burned and partially destroyed by armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, government reports confirmed the military use of four schools by security forces in that region for several weeks, the report said.
“In a troubling development, Maoists were allegedly running several schools in Chhattisgarh and included combat training as part of their curriculum,” Guterres said.
Owing to access restrictions for monitoring and reporting, the United Nations was unable to verify the reports of the recruitment and use of children by armed groups, he said.
Armed groups reportedly resorted to abduction and threats against parents in order to recruit children, who subsequently underwent military training and served as messengers, informants or guards in child squads (baldasta).
In March, the police relocated 23 children under threat of abduction by armed groups in Gumla district in Jharkhand and supported their enrolment in schools.
However, unverified reports suggest that police may be using as well as to separate and reintegrate recruited children formerly associated with armed groups as informants, potentially making them targets for retaliation.
The UN report expressed concern over reports of the recruitment and use of children, including from madrassas, and by armed groups for suicide bombings.
Guterres later said he was appalled that more than 8,000 children were killed and maimed in different conflicts in 2016.
These unacceptable attacks on children, as well as the continued widespread recruitment and use of children, attacks on schools and hospitals, and sexual violence against children, are detailed in his annual report on children and armed conflict.
Guterres urges parties to conflict to abide by their responsibility to protect children, in accordance with their obligation under international humanitarian and human rights law.
He also called on all parties to conflict to engage with the UN to improve the protection of children in line with the relevant Security Council resolutions.