Imphal, Jun 17 : She had trained hard to hit the bull’s eye for gold. But circumstances forced Alice Kamei to swap her bow with a gun and become a child soldier.
Alice, 14 and a class IX student from Manipur, was reported missing in March after she had gone to school. On the same day, another girl, Khaidem Sanahanbi, 15, too went missing.
Both were allegedly abducted by the People’s Liberation Army, the armed wing of banned militant group Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF). A verified video now shows them at an RPF training camp in Myanmar where child soldiers, among others, are trained for war.
Alice’s parents Chakri Kamei and Sundari, both farmers, were pinning hopes that their archer- daughter would excel and get a government job. But now, they say their dream has been shattered.
Alice proved her mettle by winning a bronze at the 15th International Tribal Archery competition held in Vijaywada last year.
She had called up her mother a day after she went missing. “When the mother asked her if she did not love them, she started crying. And when her mother asked her where she was, she said she didn’t know,” said Tingenlung Pamei, president of All Zeliangrong Students’ Union of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.
Alice belongs to the Zeliangrong tribe of the Nagas.
In the wake of protests by several Naga organisations, the RPF recently claimed that Alice had joined the outfit “on her own volition”. It said both the girls were safe in the camp.
“They have been taken outside India and the information we have is that they are likely to be in Myanmar,” a senior Manipur police officer said.
There are over 40 militant outfits in Manipur, a state ravaged by insurgency and traumatised by the menace of child soldiers for more than a decade. That children are recruited by militants in the state was first brought to light in 2008 by one Angom Rita, a widow, when she had reported the abduction of her only son, Angom Langamba, to the police.
Two men lured Langamba, 11, and his friend Yengkhom Naobi, 13, to a rebel training camp of a militant outfit. They were released later in the wake of protests by groups and organisations.
Meghalaya outfit Garo National Liberation Army is also notorious in luring minors to join their ranks.