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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 35, March 15, 2004

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal



Arming the Children
P. G. Rajamohan
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On February 22, 2004, the leader of All Nepal National Independent Students' Union - Revolutionary (ANNISU-R), the Maoists' students wing, Kamal Shahi, stated that a decision had been taken in their January 10-11 party annual meeting to raise a children's militia of 50,000 by April-May 2004. According to a report released by Child Workers in Nepal Concern Centre (CWIN), two-dozen children have died in the past six months of conflict in the country and around 950 children were abducted by the Maoist insurgents and taken to their various training camps. Since the collapse of the cease-fire between the Nepal Government and insurgents in August 2003, the country has been witnessing an increased frequency of abductions by the Maoists, of young school students along with their teachers, for ideological indoctrination and military training of the children in the conflict-wracked Kingdom. Some reports indicate that over 30 per cent of the Maoist militia and army comprises children below 18 years of age. Most tragically, they have been used as cannon fodder and human shields in engagements with the state's Forces.

The intensified conflict between the Maoists and the Government's Forces has resulted in large numbers of child soldiers being trained in camps in the Maoist strongholds in mid-Western Nepal. A report quoting the Maoist sources said secondary and higher secondary students in many villages were being trained in secret camps, in line with the decision to increase the Force strength of child soldiers, and the recent spate of abductions, particularly in the Achham, Rolpa and Rukum districts, feed these camps. Some of the major incidents of abduction of school children since the collapse of the cease-fire include:

  • November 3, 2003: 29 students were abducted from Mugu district.
  • December 5, 2003: 200 children were abducted by Maoist insurgents from two schools at Achham district in western Nepal.
  • January 26, 2004: Maoist insurgents abducted at least 150 secondary level school students to participate in their mass meetings from Bannatoli Village Development Committee (VDC) area in the Achham district.
  • January 29, 2004: Maoists abducted atleast 140 students from Achham district.
  • February 2, 2004: Maoists abducted 65 students from different places in the Achham district.
  • February 11, 2004: The Maoists abducted at least 700 people, primarily students and teachers, to participate in their 'anniversary celebrations' from the Bhaiswale region of Achham district.
  • February 21, 2004: Maoists abducted at least 300 students and six teachers from a school at Holeree village in the Rolpa district of western Nepal.
  • February 23, 2004: Maoists abducted at least 200 people, primarily students and teachers, from five different VDCs including Thanti, Sodsa, Bindhabasini, Kuskot and Rishidaha in the Achham district.
  • February 24, 2004: The insurgents abducted 44 school teachers from Sugarkhal in the Kailali district, six girls from Dhigomandu area in the Achham district and six other students from Nawalparasi district.
  • February 25, 2004: Maoists abducted at least 60 school students from Birendranagar in the Rukum district.
  • March 10, 2004: 14 school students were abducted from the Chimkhola VDC area in the Myagdi district.
  • March 12, 2004: Maoist insurgents abducted at least 56 people in separate incidents, including 42 teachers, from the Jogbuda area of Dadeldhura district.
  • March 13, 2004: Maoists abducted 54 people, including 35 teachers, from Dadeldhura district and 19 students from Baglung district.

Reports suggest that the abducted students have been inducted into the Special Peoples' Military Campaign, which is being implemented in the Maoists 'model districts' of Jumla and Jajarkot in the mid-Western region, where the state's power and presence is almost non-existent.

The training for child soldiers comprises three phases, which are conducted in 'base', 'model' and 'special' areas controlled by the Maoists. After selecting the target school in their stronghold areas, the Maoists first encircle the school after the students have gathered in large numbers. Generally, the Maoists invite 'volunteers' to their training camps, and then select students aged between 12 and 15. Ordinarily, these students are initially abducted for the Maoists' political meetings, annual conferences or any other special occasions, such as the announcement of the formation of an autonomous region or of a 'People's Government'. At the same time, students aged between 14 and 18 are required to undergo military drills and arms training under the supervision of top Maoist leaders at the insurgents' training bases. Though most of the abducted students are allowed to return to their homes after a couple of weeks, the trauma of the forced ideological and military training they undergo continues to haunt many of them. They are, moreover, on call for operational duties, as and when required, and are often directly attached to the main operational force in their areas. The Maoists variously use these young recruits as soldiers, sentries, messengers, cooks, porters and suppliers. The preliminary training is sufficient for these children to handle light weapons including .303 and .22 rifles, country-made socket and pipe bombs, etc., the weapons most widely used by the Maoist insurgents.

Maoists have intensified the recruitment of children in their armed cadres to fight against the security forces, and to create 'revolutionary zeal' among the young participants in the People's War. Observers suggest various reasons for children being preferred for soldiering: recruitment and maintenance of a child militia is relatively cost effective; children can more easily be used in hazardous tasks like laying and clearing landmines; children are also more psychologically malleable, easily motivated and manipulated, and display a high level of dedication and obedience.

Not all recruitment of children is coerced. As the United Nations Report on 'Impact of Armed Conflict on Children' (1996) notes, "One of the most basic reasons for children joining armed groups is economic." For orphan children, joining armed groups is attractive and guarantees basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. On occasion, poverty forces parents to offer their children to insurgent groups, in return for money. In many cases, parents' affiliations with the Maoists group results in their children 'volunteering to join these Forces.

By and large, the Maoists prefer their 'students' policy' to be implemented through their 'students wing' the ANNISU-R, which has played a major role in institutionalizing their cadre base within the student community, including minors. ANNISU-R Central Committee leader, Kamal Shahi, has accepted their ongoing arms training campaign and the existence of a students' military force equal to a battalion in a regular army. The ANNISU-R has been active in implementing a campaign for 'one educational institution, one reformed militia', and boasts that it will soon have a 50,000-strong student militia and 375,000 members.

At least 300 children have been killed in the Maoist insurgency since 1996. Young children in large parts of the country have simply stopped going to school, as the Maoists increasingly bring their activities into the school premises. On February 18, 2003, two students were killed and another injured during a 'firing demonstration' by the insurgents in a school in Baglung district. Terrorist attacks have not spared schools either. On September 8, 2003, in a serial blast in the Kathmandu Valley, one student was killed in a school campus. Engagements with the state's Security Forces also inflict casualties. During a security force operation in a school in Madbhara in Doti district on October 13, 2003, for instance, four students and six Maoists insurgents were killed.

There have been repeated calls by international human rights organizations and concerned citizens' groups to declare the school areas as 'zones of peace', and to leave the students and children outside the bloody sphere of the current conflict. These pleas have, however, apparently fallen on deaf ears, and present indications suggest, if anything, a further intensification of the ongoing Maoist campaign to mobilize children - voluntarily or otherwise - for greater participation in their 'peoples' war'. There are reports of large numbers of schools closing down all over the country, creating long-term risks of declining quality of human capital, greater unemployment, and a burgeoning army of the unemployed which will keep the manpower supply lines to the Maoist cadres alive. At the present juncture, unfortunately, apart from regular denunciations from various quarters, of the Maoist practice of recruiting child soldiers, there appears to be no concrete set of policies or responses that can bring relief to this beleaguered country's unfortunate children.



Karuna or Prabhakaran: Who will Survive?
Guest Writer: Bandula Jayasekara
Correspondent, The Island, Colombo

In July 2002, I wrote (in Frontline) that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE's) eastern commander, 'Colonel' Karuna @ Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, would some day tell his leader Prabhakaran "I will look after the east and you look after the north." In less than two years, this is exactly what has happened. Not only that, Karuna wants the east of Sri Lanka recognized as 'Southern Tamil Eelam'. The LTTE has begun to crack after years of working as a tight, disciplined terrorist outfit; an organization, which brutally assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President R. Premadasa, and created havoc in the island. Many Sri Lankans still refuse to accept that such audacity is possible within the command structure of the LTTE, and believe Karuna's 'rebellion to be a possible ploy. The fact, however, is that whatever has happened so far is very much for real. The cracks were already there and those who understood the organization knew the breach was coming. The question, however, is will it continue?

Sri Lanka's Northern Tamils have always thought of themselves as superior, within the LTTE hierarchy, to the Eastern Tamils, and this has naturally created resentment among the eastern cadres. It was Prabhakaran's northern Tamils who first led the struggle to divide the island nation and create an Eelam (homeland). Among Prabhakaran's reasons for the armed struggle was a feeling that high caste Tamils looked down on the lower castes, including the fisherman community from which Prabhakaran, and a significant proportion of the LTTE cadres, hail. The Eastern Tamils joined Prabhakaran in his struggle without any qualms, at the time. However, in recent years the predominance of some high caste Tamils of the Northern district within the leadership structure of the LTTE has resulted in problems with the Eastern Tamils led by Karuna, who has been demanding the removal of such leaders.

Unlike the North, the British trained Special Task Force (STF) of the Sri Lankan police always had the upper hand and did not allow the LTTE to gain much control in the East. The scenario, however, changed rapidly with the emergence of a ruthless easterner, Karuna. He became a hero of the LTTE, fighting in the North, leading many battles against the Sri Lankan Army. He made his men from the east tough as nails and led them into battle after battle in the north, winning the grudging admiration even of the Sri Lankan generals. He secured Prabhakaran's trust and rose, eventually, to the rank of the LTTE's commander for the eastern region. Many believe that Prabhakaran saw a younger version of himself in Karuna. Perhaps Prabhakaran failed to realize that Karuna would, someday, become a threat to him, and dare to challenge his iron rule and authority.

Karuna's statement indicates that the main difference with Prabhakaran arose over the former's reluctance to send additional cadres to the north. Karuna also charged that electoral candidates opposing the LTTE-backed Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the east, were killed without his knowledge, and that such killings were not acceptable to him. Among the other issues raised was the complaint that easterners were not treated well, nor given a proper place in the LTTE. He also wanted the dreaded leader of the LTTE intelligence wing, Pottu Amman (wanted in India in connection with Rajiv Gandhi's assassination), political wing leader Thamil Chelvan and 'Police Chief' Nadesan, removed from their posts, a demand which would evidently be unacceptable to Prabhakaran.

In response, the LTTE sacked Karuna and issued statements that he had rebelled due to 'personality clashes'. He was warned and offered amnesty, but the behind the scenes developments within the LTTE remain unknown. An LTTE political wing member, Kannan, stated from Batticaloa, "This is what we always wanted.We are with Karuna and the people are behind him." Kannan claimed to give voice to what most LTTE cadres in Batticaloa wouldn't dare say openly. Karuna has also been claiming the support of the east, but an effective demonstration of support is yet to manifest itself. Given the LTTE's history of ruthlessness, fear may well be a factor, and the people may hope that Karuna would take the battle forward on their behalf.

The split in the LTTE has come at a time when Sri Lanka is gearing up for elections. Though the LTTE itself is not fielding any candidates, it has announced its support for the TNA. Karuna has said openly that he would abide by the LTTE's decision to support the TNA candidates, and that they were free to campaign in the east. The TNA is now contesting under the banner of the Federal Party, since Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader, V. Anandasangaree, has gone to court against the use of the TNA party symbol, the Rising Sun. Despite Karuna's assurance, however, TNA candidates have slowed down their campaign activities, as some of them are unsure of the fallout between Prabhakaran and his erstwhile deputy. Prabhakaran may be the leader whose instructions the TNA candidates have to follow, but Karuna is the strongman of the east now. This may reduce the number of seats the TNA hopes to get in the elections. Tamil sources in Batticaloa also said that voter participation in the East could also fall below expectations due to the conflict in the LTTE. This could result in some advantage accruing to the Freedom Alliance (FA) led by President Chandrika Kumaratunge and supported by the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), as well as to Tamil parties such as the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), and breakaway groups of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). Further, TULF leader V. Anandasangaree who is standing alone against the LTTE, contesting the elections as an independent candidate from Jaffna. It is well known that Prime Minister Wickremasinghe is banking on the TNA's support to form a Government, and the fewer the seats the Tamil coalition captures, the more difficult his task. The Karuna factor, consequently, is becoming crucial in the elections, and could indirectly help Kumaratunge. At present, however, it is evident that neither Kumaratunge nor Wickremsinghe are willing to be seen as directly or indirectly being associated with, or supporting 'Karuna Amman', something they may have been willing to do before the peace process began and when the war was in full gear.

The elections have currently taken precedence over the peace process, and the country is now waiting to see the new formula that emerges in the numbers game of the next Parliament. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that the winning party will have to carry on with the peace process. Whether it is Wickremasinghe and his allies, or Kumaratunge and her allies, they will now have to deal, not only with Prabhakaran, but Karuna as well. This would also create problems for the Norwegian mediators. Karuna has already made a request for the negotiation of a separate agreement. A situation in which only Prabhakaran's group participates in the talks, and Karuna maintains his armed wing in the East, would be immensely complicated. Karuna would definitely seek a role in the negotiations. The Sri Lankan Government may take the stand that it is the facilitator's (Norway's) responsibility to bring 'one LTTE' together, or as Kumaratunge's party says, they would want representation of 'all Tamils'.

Everything now depends on whether Karuna can hold on to his newfound power. Prabhakaran, naturally, cannot be expected to remain passive and silent, and Karuna must know that he is already moving. He may accuse Karuna of betraying the Tamil cause, or the response may be more drastic. Prabhakaran is still the master of terror, though, with his current bid for peace and the enormous international visibility his actions attract, extreme actions against a prominent target have become relatively difficult. Yet, one cannot help wondering whether Karuna's days are numbered. It is probable that only the stronger of the two will survive.




Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
March 8-14, 2004

Security Force Personnel




     Jammu &








     West Bengal


Total (INDIA)



 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Government rejects Indian proposal for joint crackdown on terrorist outfits: Bangladesh has reportedly rejected an Indian proposal for a joint crackdown on the terrorists operating from Bangladeshi soil in India's northeast along and across the Bangladesh-India border. A report quoting unnamed sources said that the Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury at a meeting in Dhaka on March 10, 2004, conveyed his country's position to Indian Foreign Secretary Shashank after the latter requested Bangladesh to launch a Bhutan like crackdown on Indian terrorist outfits in that country. The Daily Star, March 11, 2004.


Bhutan and India hold bilateral meeting on border management and security matters: During the first Bhutan-India bilateral meeting on border management and security matters in New Delhi on March 9 and 10, 2004, the Governments of India and Bhutan have reportedly identified several issues and initiated activities to strengthen security along the international border running through Assam and West Bengal, based on their mutual interests and concern. India has reportedly agreed to provide training facilities for the Royal Bhutan Police and the Indian Border Roads Organisation has been entrusted with the task of upgrading and maintaining the roads from Assam and West Bengal to Bhutan, connecting Rangia and Tamalpur to Samdrup Jongkhar, Santhabari to Gelephu, Barabesa to Kalikhola, and Pathsala to Nganglam. Both sides have also decided to set up an "institutional mechanism" between the home ministries to work out ways to improve coordination between district authorities on both sides of the border. The next border security meeting will be held in Thimphu. Kuensel Online, March 13, 2004.


Information Headquarters' building destroyed during Fidayeen attack in Srinagar: Offices of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) of the Government of India and Directorate of Information of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir were destroyed during a fire, even as security forces (SFs) killed two fidayeen (suicide squad) terrorists who attacked and occupied the three-storeyed building in the Press Enclave area of capital Srinagar on March 9, 2004. Two suicide terrorists with AK-47 rifles appeared at the Press Enclave and lobbed hand grenades on the armed guards of the Special Services Bureau (SSB), manning the entrance of the PIB building, at 1830 hours. Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Zone, K. Rajendra Kumar, confirmed that both the fidayeen were later shot dead by troops and three SSB guards had sustained injuries. The Al-Mansooran, believed to be a front outfit of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), has claimed responsibility for the attack. An unidentified Al-Mansooran spokesperson told the local news agency CNS over telephone that cadres of his outfit had launched the attack. "By this strike, we have brought it home to the Governor that militants can strike anywhere and they do have the full capacity to conduct Fidayeen attacks on any target-howsoever secure," said the spokesperson. Daily Excelsior, March 10, 2004.


No Al Qaeda network in the country, claims Prime Minister Jamali: Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said in Islamabad on March 8, 2004, that no Al Qaeda network existed in Pakistan, but sometimes its operatives entered Pakistan through the porous border with Afghanistan. He also said that some of its cadres kept roaming in the hilly terrain along the border with Afghanistan and that it was wrong to suggest that they were on Pakistani soil in large numbers. Jang, March 9, 2004.


Separate Tamil state is not possible, says 'Colonel' Karuna: The rebel 'eastern commander' of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan alias 'Colonel' Karuna, said in an interview to The Hindu that it is impossible to create a separate Tamil state due to lack of international support. He also termed the assassination of the former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, the "gravest mistake" committed by the LTTE's intelligence wing. The Hindu, March 13, 2004.


The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.


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