Maoists recruiting minor girls in Orissa?

Keonjhar: The first look at them one may think they are just getting ready to go to school but at the very next instant they appear holding weapons. Five young girls - all below 17 years of age - surrendered to the police with their arms.

Recruited by Maoists two years ago the girls say they were disillusioned with the party.

"We chose to run away because they won't let us visit our homes... we were also ill-treated," said Shanti Soy.

Six of the seven Maoists killed by the Orissa police in the mineral belt of Jajpur and Keonjhar districts in the last two weeks were young minor girls. While civil rights groups have alleged that these are fake encounters, the fact that Maoists are recruiting minor girls in this belt in large numbers has come to light only after the five young girls in Keonjhar surrendered to the police .

"I was an orphan and too young to understand things when I joined them," said Rani, one of the girls to have surrendered.

According to reports, women account for nearly 60% of the Maoist cadre in the Keonjhar-Jajpur mining belt. The Police also claim Maoists operating in the area are recruiting young tribal girls in large numbers.

"The Maoists sell dreams to these girls and involve them in crimes. They are then blackmailed and even sexually harassed," said Asish Singh the SP of Keonjhar.

Blame it on poverty or the absence of development the actual reason behind what motivates the girls to join is unknown. And with little training and outdated arms these young girls are fast turning out to be easy preys.