Sairenkon: In April this year, ten boys were forcefully taken to militant training camps in Myanmar. The family members of three boys in this village are still living in fear. Mother of ex-child soldier said, "I am living in constant fear and think what will happen to my son in the future."
The boys tell us that they were lured with the promise of money and cellphones. Although pressure from civil society forced their release, they were warned not to reveal the identity of those who recruited them.
One of the ex-child soldiers, said, "I saw other boys and also girls in the camp. They kept us in separate rooms. I was told not to take the name of the organisation. When I was coming back, I saw new recruits."
Recruiting child soldiers in Manipur dates back to 2008 when 19 children were kidnapped by militant groups. A 2008 video of a People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak camp in Myanmar shows how they were being brainwashed. So far 66 children have been kidnapped. And many stay back in camps.
Child Welfare Committee Chiarperson Annie Mangsatabam said, "If they are convinced, thrilled by the guns and the life, it becomes very difficult to get them back."
With messages like this one, families in this village in Sairenkhon are still living in fear as some underground outfits are urging children to join them to overcome poverty and children being recruited is a reality not just in his village but other villages of Manipur. Living in the shadow of guns, it is the end of innocence for these young minds.