While the Nepalese children were celebrating the Children's Day throughout the country, demanding their rights, two children below five years died in police firings aimed at political agitators.
An 18-month old boy died as protests against the new constitution turned violent Tikapur of Kailali, where the protestors had attacked the police with axes and knives. The killing of the boy, son of paramilitary officer Nara Bahadur Saud, shocked the region. Chand said his son was playing with the family when protestors attacked him.
Similarly, another child died in a police firing in Rupandehi district. A four-year-old boy Chandan Kumar Patel from Bethari was killed on September 14 in Bhairawa-Lumbini road section in a police firing. Patel was playing at his courtyard when the police fired to disperse the agitators.
Along with these incidents, schools have shut down throughout Nepal’s southern plains for almost five weeks, denying the children their right to attend school. Political parties continue to use the children in political agitations.
These incidents show how unsafe the children in Nepal are and how difficult it is to protect their rights. As the agitation intensified in Terai, possibilities of more child rights violation in the coming days are real.
As the children from the 14 earthquake-affected districts of Nepal are in the process of recovering from the devastation of April and May, Nepalese children living in the Terai areas are suffering the ordeal of new political agitations.
Political leaders keep harping on the need of protecting child rights with the child rights day slogans annually, they have shown little concern as far as the implementation of their commitments on the ground.
As child rights violations continue to rise, UNICEF and international agencies on child rights like Save the Children, Plan International and World Vision Nepal have expressed their concern about the situation.
“Let us make Children as Zone of Peace a reality,” said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Nepal representative, issuing a statement on the National Children’s Day of Nepal. "We wish for a Nepal in which children from the plains to the hills and the mountains can grow up to their fullest potential without fear and sorrow.”
Together, the pledge aims to “Protect every child from conflict, violence, exploitation and abuse by building protective systems that address all types of child rights violations and ensure that children are not misused for political purposes by any party, and ensure that schools remain zones of peace," the organizations stated, signing the “Joint Declaration of Commitment to Children by the Political Parties of Nepal.”
However, in the last five weeks five children - an 18-month-old toddler in Kailali District, and boys aged 15 and 13 years in Dhanusha district, and another boy lost their lives as they got caught up in the crossfire of violence. Another 12-year-old is currently missing in Dhanusha district and a 4-year child died in police firing.
“Every death is one too many. The killing of children, who are at the threshold of life poised to take off into adulthood and particularly vulnerable, is shocking and inexcusable. Over the past weeks, hundreds of thousands of children in 22 districts have been deprived of their rights to education as they have not been able to access schools. These boys and girls have no other alternative than staying at home and missing out on learning opportunities. This period without school has meant a major disruption to their studies and has been highly stressful, too,” said UNICEF Chief Tomoo Hozumi.
Global experience has shown that when children are out of school for an extended period of time, the risk of their dropping out of schooling altogether increases substantially. In a country that has shown remarkable progress in getting more and more children into schools, the current situation could unravel the progresses of the past decades.