New Delhi: Children
are the worst sufferers in Maoist-hit conflict zones with many
landing behind bars for being accomplices in civil strife or armed
conflict. Child rights body National Commission for Protection of
Child Rights (NCPCR) is drawing up a set of guidelines for the
police and the armed forces on how to deal with such children,
says its head, Shanta Sinha.
"There are many districts in the country which are affected by
civil strife and there is a strong presence of armed, paramilitary
and the police (in these areas). Children are the worst sufferers
in such areas as they not only witness violence but either face
direct violence or their families undergo it," Sinha said in an
interview with IANS.
"In many cases children are handcuffed, they are put into jails,
they are not taken to juvenile homes," she added.
After learning about a number of such cases, the commission
decided to draw up a set of standard operating protocol for the
armed as well as police forces on how to deal with children in
such situations. Sinha, who is serving her second term as the
commission head, said the guidelines for the armed forces will
focus on how children who are accomplices in civil strife and
armed conflict should be treated.
"The commission will specify how the police should treat such
children. We have learnt that they are treated as offenders," she
Sinha said the armed forces are not aware about how to deal with
children who are caught for being accomplices.
"In many cases children are put in jail; they are presented in
court instead of before a juvenile justice board. What we are
trying to do is to examine the situation, to see what kind of
procedure can be adopted," Sinha, a Magsaysay Award winner, told
The commission had recently identified three juveniles in
Idinthakarai village in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district. The
juveniles, who were participating in a peaceful protest against
the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP), were arrested by the
They were booked under the serious charges of waging war against
the nation and sedition.
Sinha, a well-known social worker who has also won a Padma Shri,
said the commission is trying to study the various practices
adopted by other countries during such conflicts and what kind of
protocol they have adopted, before it comes out with its set of
"Currently, in the commission we are studying the global practices
on the issue. For example, there has been the Beijing rule, Paris
principle and the other international guidelines on how to deal
with these kinds of children in conflict zones. We are studying
them, we are trying to see what kind of protocol one has to adopt
in the best interest of children," Sinha said.
According to Unicef, the Paris principle consolidates global
humanitarian knowledge and experience in working to protect
children, supports their release from the armed forces or armed
groups and helps them reintegrate into civilian life.
The commission will specify how to deal with such children.
"These children are not supposed to be treated as offenders but as
victims of circumstances, and they should be given a second chance
in society and family. These children should be given proper
rehabilitation and justice. We should ensure that they actively
participate when they come in contact with law," she said.
Sinha is a founder Secretary Trustee of MV foundation, a
registered trust in Andhra Pradesh, which has rescued over 400,000
child laborers and put them into school.
(Prathiba Raju can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)