Boys as young as 12 are lured away or kidnapped by militant outfits

There is panic among parents as there are increasing reports of boys as young as 12 having been lured away or kidnapped to be conscripted as child soldiers in outlawed underground organisations. Despite instructions from Home Minister G. Gaikhangam to keep all police stations on red alert, boys continue to be whisked away to camps believed to be located in no man's land. The only silver lining is that an underground outfit has started releasing some boys, advising them to come back in a few years since they are still young.

Gaikhangam further pointed out that educated and mature youths were not joining the underground organisations for obvious reasons. As a result, the underground leaders are targeting boys who are between 12 and 15 years. Being minors, these recruits will obey, ask no questions, are easy to be indoctrinated and will never try to desert the camps with weapons.

Most of the parents have sent their sons outside Manipur for studies with the hope that they will not be recruited into any such organisations. However, from the series of arrests made, it was established that the insurgents had fanned out to places like Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Shillong.

While hiding from the police and intelligence officials, they reportedly forced their way into the private lodges of Manipuri students. In Guwahati or Shillong, the house owners, under instructions from the police, adopt certain regulations to weed out the insurgents who stay in the lodges of the students, masquerading as close relatives.

Police say that being urban guerillas, some of the insurgents move around. The minors are attracted by the hand guns the insurgents handle and the riveting tales of their adventurous life in the mountains and rain forests. Since the kidnapped boys are students, all the students' organisations have come out with condemnations.

One student is still in captivity since the outfit is holding him as hostage for a ransom of Rs. 5 lakh. Police are frantically trying to rescue the boy.

In Manipur, which has a population of hardly 28 lakh, there are over 50 underground organisations. Some of them, mostly tribal outfits, had signed an agreement with the Union government, suspending their operations.