India should take steps to prevent child combatants: HRW

India should take all necessary measures to prevent and eliminate the root causes of forced recruitment of children from poor and marginalised segments of society?by non-state armed groups, a rights group has said.

PTI| Last Updated: Jun 22, 2014, 12:11 PM IST

New York: India should take all necessary measures to prevent and eliminate the root causes of forced recruitment of children from poor and marginalised segments of society?by non-state armed groups, a rights group has said.

"Children from India`s poorest and most marginalised communities are ending up on the front lines as combatants, or because their schools are bombed by armed groups," South Asia director at Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly said.
Human Rights Watch said that non-state armed groups should halt their recruitment and use of children and attacks on schools,?

"The UN has laid out a series of steps that the government should take to protect these children better."

The group said that India should carry out recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child that urged India to promptly enact legislation that criminalises the recruitment and use of anyone under 18 in hostilities by non-state armed groups.

It also said India should take all necessary measures to prevent and eliminate the root causes of forced recruitment of children from poor and marginalised segments of society?by non-state armed groups.
Unlawful attacks on schools should be promptly investigated, and those responsible should be prosecuted and punished, the committee said.

The Child Rights Committee has said it was "deeply concerned" about opposition Maoist forces in central India as well as armed groups in the northeast, Jammu and Kashmir recruiting and using anyone under 18 in hostilities.

The committee also expressed concern about government armed forces occupying schools in Maoist-affected areas, despite Supreme Court rulings prohibiting?the practice.

The committee said that India should "take all necessary measures to prevent the occupation and use of... Places with a significant presence of children,?such as schools, in line with international humanitarian law, expedite the vacation of schools as appropriate and take concrete measures to ensure that cases of?unlawful ? occupation of schools are promptly investigated, and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished."

Although security forces` occupation and use of schools has declined since 2010, instances of dangerous dual use of schools continue, placing students and teachers potentially in the line of fire and harming children?s right to education.

"The Indian government should finally and fully withdraw its security forces from schools," Ganguly said.

"India`s children are entitled to safe schools and safe childhoods."