Shillong, April 28 (IANS) The Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), an insurgent group in the western part of Meghalaya, has been recruiting children forcibly, according to a militant who surrendered on Thursday.
“Many children have been forcibly recruited in the GNLA and were later imparted guerrilla warfare in our training camp at Durama,” Krewingbirth S. Sangma told journalists after he surrendered before Meghalaya Police chief Rajiv Mehta.
Sangma, an expert in bomb-making and wanted for kidnappings and ambushes of security forces, came to the Meghalaya Police headquarters along with four others militants.
“There are more than 15 to 20 children in the camp and are being used by Sohan Shira (the ‘military wing chief’ of the GNLA) to carry out different activities for the outfit,” he said.
In the past, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCP) had directed the union and Meghalaya governments to take action to ensure that children are given their rights to life, education and health services.
“It has come to our notice that the GNLA has been recruiting children and more than a hundred of them are at its camps in the jungles in the Garo Hills,” the NCPCR said in its communication to the Meghalaya government.
Inspector General of Police (Operations) G.H.P.Raju said children were being recruited, and “brainwashed with money and mobile phones”.
“Most of these children, who are mostly school dropouts, are being used as informers by the GNLA on movement of security forces and other activities,” Raju told IANS.
Earlier, Sangma along with other four GNLA rebels — Rakseng Ch. Marak alias Geloram, Jambil Ch. Momin alias Jamindar, Walban R. Marak alias Bawil and Tarzan Ch. Sangma alias Ruby — surrendered and deposited a huge cache of arms and ammunition.
“This surrender was due to the police’s anti-insurgent operations in Garo Hills and also due to the important role played by church leaders. We hope more and more surrenders take place as it is high time peace is given a chance,” Mehta told journalists.
The rebels deposited AK-56 rifles, carbines, G-3 rifles, grenades, magazines, and ammunition of various calibre.
The GNLA, which claims to be fighting for a separate ‘Garoland’ in western Meghalaya, is headed by police officer-turned-rogue Champion R. Sangma, who is lodged in the Shillong jail after being arrested from near the India-Bangladesh border in 2012.