Maoists target schools, recruit children

Scene-I: Heavily-armed Maoist blow up an eight-room hospital on the campus of Sarvodaya Ashram near Gaya. The ashram became the naxalites’ target because the jawans of Central Reserve Police Force and Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra) had stayed there in the first week of April.

Scene-II: Armed with sophisticated weapons, around 50 Maoists raid a school building in Kaimur district in Bihar and blow it up with dynamites. While retreating, they leave behind a leaflet saying this was done as the school premises was used by the security personnel to stay and launch an operation against them.

Of late, the naxalites seems to have changed their strategy. After targeting mobile towers and railway tracks, government school buildings now seem to be on their radar. In the last few months, 38 schools and community centres in remote areas of Bihar have been blown up by these underground guerrillas. Such is the intensity of these explosions that at least six school buildings were virtually razed to the ground.

Apologies to children

The Maoists later apologised to the students in hand-written leaflets, though at the same time they also justified their action. “We regret creating problems for the school children but we were forced to do so as these buildings were being used by the paramilitary forces to launch operations against us,” said one of the leaflets written in Hindi.

The leaflets were distributed in response to the request made by children from naxal-infested areas not to blow up their schools. Most of the schools were targeted by the Maoists in Gaya, Rohtas, Aurangabad and Kaimur districts, perceived to be the areas where they wield considerable clout.

“The primary reason for targeting schools is to keep the security forces at bay,” opined Aurangabad SP Nishant Kumar Tiwary, and hastened to add that in far-flung remote areas, only government buildings can be used to house paramilitary forces.

“Given a choice, we would like to shift the security personnel from schools. But we can’t do this because of the poor law and order situation in rural areas,” explained a top official of human resource development department.

By targeting schools, the naxalites have hit two birds with one stone. On the one hand, they have sent a message to the government displaying their ‘authority and clout’, on the other, they have been successful in brainwashing the children in these areas to take up Maoism at an early stage.

The first glimpse of new kids on the Maoists’ block was witnessed last week when more than 40 members of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, an outfit of CPI (Maoists), blew up a government and a private school in Kaimur. Eyewitness account said a good number of child Maoists were present during the operation which began late at night and continued till wee hours.

“The children came on tractors with their seniors, took part in blowing up the buildings, sprinkled kerosene on paddy straws and set them on fire,” said a source, who did not wish to be identified. “Later these child Maoists arrived at a line hotel, forced the truck drivers to draw out diesel from their vehicles and filled the fuel in their own tractors.

Before proceeding ahead unchallenged, they also snatched the mobile phones of some people present there. But when someone pointed out to them they could be traced by the police through the Unique Identification Number (UIN) of the cellphone, they retracted and returned the mobiles to their respective owners,” said the eyewitness.

The move to recruit child Maoists, which began in the hilly terrains of Kaimur plateau, some 250 km from Patna, is now fast spreading to other hideouts too. But the Maoists have not only brainwashed the children with naxal literature and ideology, they have also promised their parents Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 per child per month as remuneration.

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