Child abuse takes place in different forms and for different objectives though it is condemnable in all aspects. Though there are several laws and institutional measures to prevent child abuse, it continues to be a preferred option for earning money as well as avoiding suspicion. The worst form of child abuse is undertaken by Pakistan-sponsored militant outfits in Kashmir who use children for activities like planting bomb or acting as couriers to convey messages and material. Given the fact that children are not usually out of the perimeter of suspicion of security agencies, they serve as a strategic tool for militant outfits to undertake and facilitate attacks. Moreover, militant outfits indoctrinate children by giving such tactics an ideological frame of jihad in order to influence unsuspecting and innocent children.
Childrens are easy target for militant outfits as they could be easily kidnapped, coerced, indoctrinated or influenced to undertake terror operations. The level of indoctrination of such children can be gauged from the fact that they carry out attacks on security forces and civilians or act as couriers for amounts as paltry as Rs. 50 -100. Militant outfits end up saving huge amounts of money for their own kitty as they are reportedly paid in lakhs of rupees for each attack against Indian interests in Kashmir. Reports have indicated that outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) are front-runners in coercing innocent childrens to undertake terror attacks at the behest of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). There have been several instances where children have been used by militant outfits to carry out attacks on security forces.
For instance, Ahmed Mir a Class X student in village Uichursso in Pulwama was motivated by a JeM activist to avenge the death of his brother. He was coerced to provide shelter to terrorists in his orchards and facilitate logistical support to the militants including hiding their arms and ammunitions in his orchard. Fayad was caught before he could lob a grenade on security forces deployed at a fair in Pulwama. Similarly, Naseer Ahmed of Karimabad in Pulwama was coerced into joining the JeM and helping its cadres in carrying out attacks on security forces. Ahmed's habit of consuming liquor was exploited by the JeM as a bargaining chip to carry out attacks on security forces. Inayatullah Dar of village Gadoora in Pulwama was apprehended on 7 April 2006. A student of class XII was asked to hurl a grenade in Pulwama and before he could execute it, he was caught by security forces. Militants paid another 18-year-old youth a meagre amount to drive an explosive laden vehicle into the Badami Bagh Cantonment. The youth was killed in the suicide attack at the cantonment. In another incident, militants gave a container, which had an improvised explosive device, to a child and asked him to leave the container at a specified location. The child was paid a paltry sum of Rs. 100 though the bomb caused significant damage.
A report in The Tribune (4 February 2004) illustrated the case of militant groups recruiting children of Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes in the hills of Udhampur and using them in operations against security forces. Most of these children were between 9-15 years and belong to the higher reaches of the Pir Panjal. A series of chance recoveries of missing boys by security forces in the preceding months had established that terrorists now preferred to recruit younger children. The report highlighted the tragic tale of nine-year-old Abdul Gafoor, who was rescued from militants by the Army near Ladha village in Udhampur district. Gafoor was abducted by Salamuddin of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) on 15 September 2003 and given arms training and was also taught to use radio set. “For the first two months, I was made to wash utensils and carry the load of the terrorists as they moved from one village to another. Then I was trained in the use of AK-47 rifles and later taught to handle explosives,’’ Gafoor revealed. “I was also taught how to use a radio set and sometimes, I was told to go near security installations and inform them (the terrorists) about the strength of security forces,’’ he said. A month before, Gafoor had a narrow escape when terrorists launched an attack on an Army patrol party in the Poni area. In that encounter, one terrorist was injured but Gafoor, along with the militants, managed to escape. Six months before Gafoor's recovery, Gafoor’s father, Saki Mohammad, was killed by terrorists for his alleged links with the Army and his mother, Malika, was abducted. <>Gafoor, who has passed second standard, was abducted from his house at Parankot in Udhampur. He roamed with Hizbul militants in the thick forests of Pakikot, Narla and Larki in the hilly belt of Udhampur. Gafoor’s grandfather, the only earning member in the family, died while he was away. Significantly, Indian security authorities have said that they will not register cases against children who are being used by militant outfits as they are ideologically committed to militant outfits but are only forced recruits. Authorities have also assured that the recovered children would be returned to the parents and a rehabilitation policy would be formulated for them.
Indoctrinating the Young Mind
The incidents cited above reflect the level of motivation of the militant outfits which target youth of impressionable age and lure them to join the jihad in Kashmir. Such impressionable youths are then taken for weapons training across the Line of Control to training camps located in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). These youth are also indoctrinated at several madrassas (religious school) across Pakistan where they are promised Shahdat (martyrdom) and a secure place in heaven if they undertake the act of jihad which includes killing security forces and civilians in India.
The strategy of exploiting children by terrorist organisations for the purpose of carrying out terror attacks and suicide bombings is not a new development. Such tactics have been used by militant outfits in several countries across the world. Moreover, madrassas located in Pakistan and several other countries have become the factories to manufacture terrorists out of young innocent children who are put through rigorous training and indoctrination. The use of children in terror attacks makes the task of security forces complex and difficult. While children are normally not suspects and blend easily with the crowd, the job of security forces is made difficult as any preventive action by security forces could lead to charges of human rights violations by anti-India elements.