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Rights panel warns against child trafficking in India’s Manipur

Children from rival Meitei and Kuki communities are reportedly being exploited ‘sexually, physically and mentally’
A girl evacuated by the Indian army during the ethnic riots in Manipur state embraces her mother (second right) after reuniting at a temporary shelter at the Leimakhong Army Cantonment in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur on May 10, 2023.

A girl evacuated by the Indian army during the ethnic riots in Manipur state embraces her mother (second right) after reuniting at a temporary shelter at the Leimakhong Army Cantonment in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur on May 10, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 15, 2024 11:25 AM GMT
Updated: May 15, 2024 11:27 AM GMT

The child rights panel in strife-torn Manipur state in northeast India has cautioned displaced people living in relief camps against child traffickers masquerading as saviors.

Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights on May 14 warned that “some organizations and individuals have been trying to lure parents and guardians of internally displaced children, so as to carry out illegal transportation of children in large numbers, under the pretext of giving free education and accommodate outside the state.”

It further warned that the transportation of children without following laid down legal procedures will be termed “child trafficking,” and strict action will be taken against those involved in it.

The commission said it came across instances of children from both Meitei and Kuki communities “being exploited in many ways including sexually, physically and mentally.”

More than 20,000 children are said to have been affected by the year-long ethnic violence that broke out between the Hindu majority Meiteis and indigenous Kuki Christians on May 3, 2023.

“The brunt of this unresolved ethnic conflict has just incapacitated precious childhoods of many children unimaginably and infringed the undeniable fundamental rights of the victim children,” the commission said.

Referring to a May 3 letter from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the state panel revealed that some of the rescued children had given testimonies that they were “subjected to sexual, physical and mental harassment” and denied “proper food and care.”

“We have come across instances of our children being exploited outside the state and therefore, we issued this caution,” said the chairman of the state panel Keisam Pradipkumar.

Pradipkumar told UCA News on May 15 that many children were taken away from the state by individuals or groups promising food, accommodation and free education.

“There is no government mechanism to monitor the activities of those trying to exploit the vulnerability of the displaced parents at this critical juncture,” he added.

Pradipkumar said the state panel would assist children who had gone outside “in case they want to return to the state.”

The ethnic violence has claimed over 220 lives, a majority of them Christians, and displaced more than 50,000 people after their houses were destroyed.

More than 350 Churches and other Christian institutions, such as schools and social institutions, were also destroyed in the violence.

Sporadic violence between both the warring groups is still going on as the state government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party has failed to restore peace.

The Meiteis account for 53 percent and tribal Christians 41.29 percent of Manipur's 3.2 million population.

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