News Reports


Commission report painful; it says the self-defence group is armed and committing atrocities . The Hindu reports.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Chhattisgarh government to implement some of the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission, which went into the activities of the Salwa Judum (self-defence group) set up by the State to tackle naxal menace.

Earlier, the NHRC submitted, in a sealed cover, a report to the court, which had asked it to probe the allegations that the Salwa Judum, which had been provided with arms, was committing atrocities on innocent people.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal was hearing a petition filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramachandra Guha and E.A.S. Sarma. They challenged the setting up of the Salwa Judum which, they alleged, was indulging in killings and committing atrocities on tribals in the guise of countering the naxal movement.

The Chief Justice, who perused the NHRC report, told senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Chhattisgarh, that the commission “has done a meticulous work. It has given a series of recommendations. It is very painful to read the report. It says there is arson and looting, people are armed and they [Salwa Judum] are committing serious offences. It says people who are subjected to serious problems are still afraid of coming out.”

The Chief Justice observed: “When somebody [Salwa judum] is given arms, he claims to be a pseudo police. Once he is given arms, he will commit an offence though he has no right to do any such act. Some remedial measures have been suggested in the report and the State may consider implementing them. Whatever is urgently required to be done, do it.”

Mr. Venugopal assured the court that the government would implement the recommendations “which are of immediate concern.”

The Bench asked the Registry to supply copies of the NHRC report to the parties and asked them to file their response, and posted the matter to October 23.

The petition said the Salwa Judum was launched to combat naxalites but in reality these activists conducted frequent raids on villages and attacked and killed suspected sympathisers of naxalites, torched their houses and looted livestock.

In defence of Salwa Judum, the Chhattisgarh government said: “It is not state-sponsored, but a people’s initiative to combat the menace of naxalites. The State is committed to resolving the problem of naxalism, and any peaceful movement which resists violent methods definitely gets support of States.”

Additional Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam appeared for the Centre and counsel Nithya Ramakrishnan, for the petitioners.

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Ahead of the coming assembly polls, the Communist Party of India (CPI) has urged the Election Commission to depute its own team to make an assessment about the present situation in ‘Salwa Judum’ camps in Naxalite-infested areas of South Bastar, alleging that the inmates were being forcibly enrolled as voters of the polling centres to be set up at the relief camps.

“A large number of people, who were staying in the relief camp for the last three years, have already returned to their respective villages. Their names have been deleted from the electoral rolls of their native villages and have been added in the voters’ list of the relief camp area”, CPI leader and All India Adivasi Mahasabha President Manish Kunjam said in his letter to the Election Commission.

“Its not proper to deprive the people, who have returned to their respective villages, an opportunity to exercise their franchise in the polling stations close to their native villages”, he said and claimed that CPI had raised this issue with Dantewara and Bijapur district collectors, who have expressed their ‘inability’ to do anything to enlist them as voters in their villages.

Pointing out that those who became eligible to cast their votes for the first time have been enlisted as voters of relief camp areas,

Kunjam said in such a situation free and fair polls were not possible both in Dantewara and Bijapur districts, particularly in the relief camps, which are “controlled” ‘Salwa Judum’ activists.

Kunjam, a former CPI legislator, told The Indian Express that the Commission should depute its own team to look into the matter as such ‘manipulations’ in the preparations of electoral rolls clearly indicated towards the possibility of bogus voting and even rigging in the assembly polls.

Kunjam said he had also written a letter to the Election Commission, pointing out that the staff, engaged in the revision of electoral rolls, did not visit more than 50 out of the total 187 polling station areas falling in the Konta (ST) Assembly segment in South Bastar.

However, the state’s Joint Electoral Officer Gaurav Dwivedi told The Indian Express that the list of relief camp inmates, eligible to cast votes, were being prepared and tallied with the electoral rolls of their respective villages.

[Source:Indian Express, September 01, 2008. Available at http://www.indianexpress.com/story/355817.html as of September 02, 2008]

Times of India

NEW DELHI: Taking serious exception to the arming of Salwa Judum, an anti-Naxalite movement, by the Chhatisgarh government, CPI has asked the Centre to consider its immediate disbanding and initiate a high-level inquiry into alleged criminal activities of its members.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party National Secretary D Raja said the Chhattisgarh government has been providing logistical support and legitimacy to a “private militia” which has been “asserting the right to control and intimidating and punishing anyone they consider to be suspected Naxalite”.

Alleging that the atrocities committed by Salwa Judum activists go unreported, the CPI leader demanded that the Centre should explain its view on the immediate disbanding of the group and institute a high-level independent inquiry into all acts of violence committed by its members.

“Far from being a peaceful campaign, Salwa Judum activists are armed with guns, lathis, axes, bows and arrows. There has been a breakdown of civil administration and the rule of law in Dantewada district (from where Salwa Judum movement started),” Raja alleged.

It was “clear violation” of democratic principles and norms that the government armed one section against another, he said, alleging that Chhattisgarh government has only served to deepen this crisis by aiding and abetting Salwa Judum.

“The Salwa Judum is, for all practical purpose a militia of the avaricious local elite, pretending to be an expression of spontaneous local anger against the Naxalites,” he said.

Economic Times Editorial

We endorse the Supreme Court’s disapproval of the creation of anti-Naxal Salwa Judum by the Chhattisgarh government, and the subsequent logistical support and legitimacy it has been extending to what is essentially a private militia. The apex court, while hearing a petition challenging the establishment of Salwa Judum, has rightly observed the state giving “arms to some persons” would mean it is “abetting in a crime if these private persons kill others”.

A democratic state is a keeper of the sovereignty of the people. Any attempt by it to arm one section against another constitutes a clear violation of this principle. It’s time governments realised that Maoist insurgency indicates a crisis of sovereignty for the Indian state. And there is no way it can be overcome without first rendering state institutions inclusive and functionally democratic through a politically-driven process of social transformation.

The Chhattisgarh government has, however, only served to deepen this crisis by aiding and abetting the Salwa Judum. The Judum is, for all practical purposes, a militia of the avaricious local elite, pretending to be an expression of spontaneous local anger against the Maoists. The apex court would do well to accept the plea to set up a committee to visit the camps where local villagers from Naxal-affected areas are reportedly being held against their will.

The perils of political vigilantism have, of late, become much too visible to be ignored. The bloody ‘recapture’ of Nandigram by the CPI(M) cadre last November, or the frequent acts of vandalism carried out by the Shiv Sena and similar outfits to defend Hindu/Maratha culture, point towards a growing propensity to settle disagreements outside the pale of law and institutions.

According vigilante justice primacy over constitutionally ordained legal-judicial procedures risks legitimising private and sectionalist ideas of right and wrong over democratically instituted ideas of justice and fairness. The state would do well to not merely disband the Salwa Judum, but review the entire model of police-civilian cooperation in fighting insurgencies.

Times of India Editorial

The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the legal premise of the Salwa Judum movement in Chhattisgarh. Echoing observations of various civil society groups, the court told the Chhattisgarh government that it was illegal to arm civilians and to allow them to kill. The Chhattisgarh government should now stop defending the indefensible and immediately disband private militias it has put together to fight Maoists.

Surveys by civil society groups have indicated that the movement has been a coercive affair and hardly the voluntary effort the state government claims it to be. It is high time the government recognised the disastrous impact the Salwa Judum has had on the people. Since its inception in 2005, over 50,000 villagers have been displaced from their homes and deprived of livelihoods. Large parts of the state are in a state of civil war.

As the apex court observed, the government cannot abet violence; it is illegal under the Constitution. Maoist violence is a problem that calls for political and administrative solutions. It feeds on social unrest that has resulted from bad governance. Mainstream political parties have failed to stem the rot; instead, these have actively furthered corruption and cornered public funds. Maoist violence is also an outcome of under-policing as authorities simply make up for the lack of professional police by arming private groups. Maoists have attempted to exploit the failures of democratic politics and spread their influence. They have had limited success so far.

Correctives to the failures of democratic politics have to be sought within the constitutional framework. These can’t be achieved by curtailing the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to citizens or by promoting vigilantism. What is needed in states like Chhattisgarh is a right mix of public policies that address problems of education, health and employment and democratic institutions to ensure effective delivery of public funds.

Crony capitalism and private militias are not substitutes for genuine market forces or a professional police force.

A strong civil society is necessary to ensure transparency and accountability in public administration. Efforts like Salwa Judum and laws like Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act do not help in the formation of a civil society.

The latter especially has become a handy tool for the state government to stifle voices critical of the administration. Dissent and debate are essential features of a democracy and necessary to foster a democratic public culture. Absence of these leads to state-sponsored repression and only benefits anti-democratic forces including Maoists.

Opposition parties in Chhattisgarh Wednesday asked the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to wind up the state backed anti-Maoist civil militia movement, Salwa Judum. The opposition remarks came after the Supreme Court Monday ticked off the Chhattisgarh government for arming tribals to form the Salwa Judum. The apex court said the people couldn’t be armed and encouraged to take law into their own hands.

Welcoming the observation by the court, Congress leader Ajit Jogi said: “Chief Minister Raman Singh should take moral responsibility for killing of hundreds of innocent civilians in recent years in Maoist violence.

“Raman Singh government supplied arms to militia cadres to fight Maoists for the sake of political gains that has actually now threatened the existence of tribal community in Bastar. Hundreds of innocent people (are) massacred and bodies dumped in forests,” Jogi, a tribal leader and former chief minister, told IANS.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) state unit asked the government to wind up the Salwa Judum movement in the wake of the apex court’s remarks.

“The government has put tribal civilians against one another in Bastar by promoting Salwa Judum that has resulted in bloodshed. The movement must be wound up to protect human rights and the tribal community,” a CPI-M statement said.

Salwa Judum, which translates as peace mission, is a controversial anti-Maoist movement formed in June 2005 to bring the area dominated by leftist guerrillas back under government control.

Human rights organisations have also blamed the BJP government for funding and arming the Salwa Judum. They allege that the government tactics have created a major law and order problem in the state’s southern Bastar region, as the militia cadres have taken the law into their own hands.

The state government says it is studying the court observations to take further action.

Linked from

Editorial, the Nav Hind Times

THIS is not for the first time that a state government has tried to drag the observation of the Supreme Court into controversy on the plea that it was an obiter dicta; an observation, which is not a judgement. nor even part of the order-sheet of case. No doubt it was an oral observation but the apex court on Monday while indicted the Chhatisgarh government for arming civilians with the sole intention of killing other civilians, it also sought to know from it the legal status of the Salwa Judum movement. Irrespective of the position held by the state government and its police on the apex court observation, the fact is this has exposed the state government’s claim about the fairness in letting masses take the law into their hands. What is significant is the Bench comprising of the Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice Aftab Alam also observed that the state could not distribute arms to individuals in the name of countering insurgency as this amounted to abatement of crime and agreed to the demand of the human rights group for an inquiry into the operations of Salwa Judum. It is indeed a matter of shame that the state police chief instead of taking the observation of the apex court in right spirit was indulging in the blame game and was resorting to white lies by denouncing the existence of Salwa Judum training camps. But the fact is the political executives of the states have been going around boasting of the achievements and striking power of the Salwa Judum. The state government instead of hiding behind the facade legal jargons, should ensure that civil society does not disintegrate. Arming the people to fight the naxalite is the right panacea. The government must allow the democratic system to function effectively and at the same time should ensure that benefits of the development reach to the rural poor and corruption is weeded out at the micro level.

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