After blowing up children in the me of revolution, the ULFA hardline faction is now employing children to blow up others. It is a discreditable first for insurgency in the State, and a new low for ULFA(I). The shameful tactic has been exposed in the ongoing probe into the blasts on Independence Day in Tinsukia district. The police have picked up two youngsters from Kakojan, one aged 15 and the other 16 years, both schoolgoing students. They have confessed to planting bombs in as many as four locations, using a motorbike to do the job. Two bombs failed to explode, while the other two did not cause any deaths. What is shocking, however, is what could have been. It transpires that the two youngsters were also tasked with planting bombs at Doomdooma market and near the Doomdooma police station. Had they done so and had the bombs gone off, the mayhem would have been horrific. Fortutely, they baulked, and a tragedy was averted. The ULFA(I) has now denied using children in its operations, ascribing the reports to police disinformation. Back in 2004, the ULFA had issued similar denials after the dastardly I-Day bomb attack at Dhemaji College ground, snuffing out in a bloody instant the lives of many children with their mothers. It was left for ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa to admit after his return that the Dhemaji attack was the ‘biggest mistake’ his organization had committed. The latest Tinsukia attack investigations have revealed a disturbing trend. Children have so far been used as informers or linkmen by militant groups, but now they are being induced to the terror frontline as bombers and attackers. The two bbed youngsters say ULFA(I) cadres hiding in the forests sent them on their deadly errand, paying them a few hundred rupees while promising more money later on. The question arises — did not the militants have the guts to do their dirty work themselves? Or did they think the boys would better succeed in not raising suspicions of security personnel? The tactic stinks, for it shows a cynical readiness to use youngsters as expendable foot soldiers. Planting bombs is risky for life and limb of those doing the job. Susceptible boys can be motivated to do such dangerous work gratis or for a pittance. They can be given very little information, so they will reveal little if caught. The loss to the militant organization will therefore be minimal. There is also the provision under law that young offenders will be let off lightly if bbed for terror acts. Manipur and galand are already faced with this problem, of children going missing to join or be coerced into militant outfits. Poor families are particularly vulnerable to losing their children this way; as for those children who do not like the new life in the jungles, there can be no return. In jehadi violence afflicted Kashmir and the Maoist insurgency belt states, children have been drafted to do battle with security forces. Recently slain Hizbul commander Burhan Wani had joined the insurgency when 15 years old, and in turn recruited many more youngsters through social media. Elsewhere in the world, the LTTE in Sri Lanka earlier and the ISIS in the Middle East now — particularly made it a point to recruit fighters in boyhood and program them into killing machines. But life in this business is brutally short, and most child fighters wind up dead as so much expendable cannon fodder. If rebel outfits in Assam are stooping to this level, it is high time to introspect.
Children as cannon fodder