Press Release


Campaign for Peace & Justice in Chhattisgarh

c/o F-10/12, GF, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi

Website: www.cpjc.wordpress.com Email: cpjcindia@gmail.com

An team of research scholars and students from various Universities across the country and independent researchers visited Dantewada and Bijapur districts of Chhattisgarh from 6th to the 10th of June 2008. The initiative was taken by the Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh a campaign group formed by individuals and organisations who are deeply concerned about the gross violation of human rights going on in Chhattisgarh.

During the four days, we visited a number of villages and a few camps and documented the testimonies of victims who recounted horrid stories of violence they have witnessed and experienced since the start of the Salwa Judum in 2005. As a team, our observations of the area are frightening as cases of killings, sexual crimes, destructions of villages and food stocks and gross human rights violations on a large scale are rampant. We believe that contrary to the Chhattisgarh Government’s assertion of Salwa Judum being a peaceful, spontaneous and autonomous movement, it is in fact a part of well concerted, militarised strategy on the part of the officialdom.

The Adivasis have narrated gruesome incidents of violence against them. Raids by the Judum members resulting in the loss of lives and property in the villages are a regular phenomenon. Loot, arson and torture as a means to coerce people to go to the Salwa Judum camps. In some cases, arson has been used as means not only to coerce people to go to Salwa Judum camps but also to prevent them from returning to their villages. We documented numerous instances of girls and women being raped and subject to other forms of sexual violence by Salwa Judum and security forces.

The atrocities don’t however end at the borders of the camps and in fact several cases of torture and murder have been reported from these camps. Basics such as food, water and sanitation have been denied to those in the camps. Those who stayed back in villages or ran away from Salwa Judum camps live in constant fear of yet another raid by the Judum. Their mobility and access to basics such education, health and weekly markets are severely restricted .

Acts of intimidation and violence by the forces in the pretext of protecting villagers and justifying it by branding them to be Naxalites seems to be a thought out strategy. The level of militarisation and criminalisation in Dantewada and Bijapur is frightening. Constant surveillance has insecurity and has created a tense, war like atmosphere. Our grave concern is that arming civilians as a counter insurgent strategy will eventually create a criminilised society where jungle raj will be the rule of the day.

You may be aware that the NHRC, pursuant to the Supreme Court order on 31st March 2008 has constituted a fact finding team which after a preliminary visit in May, had organised a public hearing on 10th June 2008 in Dantewada. Several people from various villages from across Dantewada and Bijapur attended this hearing and deposed before the commission. Our observations are presented to the National Human Rights Commission that arrived in Dantewada on the 10th of June 2008.

Our fear that the people who have been courageous enough to voice their discontent and give testimonies to NHRC being harassed and threatened by the militarized network. A group of IDPs who had fled Chhattisgarh to Andhra Pradesh due to the violence unleashed by Salwa Judum and had come to depose before the NHRC were detained and harassed at the Konta Police station on there way back to AP. We fear that people from villages within Chhattisgarh may also be harassed and tortured by the Salwa Judum.

[These are preliminary observations by the team presented at a press conference in Raipur on 11th June. We are in the process of preparing a detailed report which will be circulated shortly. ]

Team members: Kamal Nayan Choubey – Ph.d Scholar, Univ. of Delhi

Ranjay Kumar – Univ. of Delhi

Vikas Kumar – Univ. of Delhi

Preeti Chauhan– Univ. of Delhi

Sanchita Bakshi – Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Aditya Swarup – NALSAR Univ of Law, Hyderabad.

Contact details: Praveen Mote-09313879073; Sridevi Panikkar-09868099304

Campaign for Peace & Justice in Chhattisgarh

c/o F-10/12, GF, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi

Phone: 9868099304 / 9868076576

Website: www.cpjc.wordpress.com Email: cpjcindia@gmail.com

PRESS RELEASE

31st March 2008

Government’s Support to Salwa Judum Amounts to Endorsing Vigilantism says Supreme Court

Noting that the State cannot distribute arms to individuals in the name of countering insurgency as this amounts to abetment of crime, a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice Aftab Alam today said there could be no objection to an independent enquiry into Salwa Judum. They were hearing two Writ Petitions regarding Salwa Judum-one filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramchandra Guha and EAS Sarma and the other by Kartam Joga, Dudhi Joga and Manish Kunjam. The Bench said they were very disturbed by the petitions and that this was a very serious case. The Bench noted that the current policy of the government regarding Salwa Judum amounted to endorsing vigilantism and that such lawlessness cannot be tolerated.

The petitioners reiterated that the Salwa Judum was a state sponsored vigilante force that had been responsible for extreme violence in Dantewada and Bijapur districts, Chhattisgarh, and for forcing people into camps. The counsel for the petitioners, Mr. Ashok Desai and Mr. T. R. Andhyarujina, argued that there were already independent reports, which contained a scathing critique of Salwa Judum, such as the report of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and the Administrative Reforms Commission. The Bench gave the petitioners permission to file an application seeking an independent enquiry with particulars. The next hearing was fixed for the 15th of April 2008.

CAMPAIGN FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE IN CHHATTISGARH

Press Release

12th October 2007

  • PIL asks for an end to government support for Salwa Judum SC issues Notice, asks Chhattisgarh Govt. to respond in 4 weeks

 

Responding to a writ petition filed by Kartam Joga, Dudhi Joga and Manish Kunjam (WP Criminal 119 of 2007), asking for an end to government support for Salwa Judum and an enquiry into all acts of violence, the Supreme Court on Friday, October 12th issued notice to the Government of Chhattisgarh and the Union of India. Taking note of the urgency of the matter, they gave the respondents four weeks time to reply. The matter was argued by senior counsel Mr. Ashok Desai and heard by the Chief Justice and Justice Raveendran.

 

The petitioners are all current or former elected representatives in Dantewada district. They have been directly affected by Salwa Judum. The PIL provides a list of 537 persons who have been killed by the Salwa Judum and security forces from June 2005 till the present, including 33 children, 45 women, 416 men and 43 unnamed persons. This is a small fraction of the likely killings, most of which have gone unreported. At least 2825 houses have been burnt in the undivided district of South Bastar (Dantewada). At least 99 women have been raped. The petition includes statements from the residents of over a hundred villages detailing incidents of killing, rape, arson and loss of property at the hands of the Salwa Judum.

This is the second PIL before the Supreme Court seeking an end to Salwa Judum. The two petitions will be taken up together at the next hearing.

Campaign for Peace & Justice in Chhattisgarh

c/o F-10/12, GF, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi

Phone: 011-26680883 / 9868727936 / 9868099304 / 9958313838

Website: www.cpjc.wordpress.com Email: cpjcindia@gmail.com

Press Release 4th September 2007

People’s Convention on ‘Salwa Judum; Civil War in Chhattisgarh’

held in New Delhi

  • Convention attended by more than 250 people from various walks of life
  • Ajit Jogi (Ex-CM Chhattisgarh), Sandeep Dixit (MP, Delhi), Manish Kunjam (ex-MLA Dantewara), Himanshu Kumar (Vanvasi Chetna Manch, Dantewara), Kamal Mitra Chenoy (Professor, JNU), Dr. B. D. Sharma (former Chairperson National SC/ST Commission), among those who joined hands against Salwa Judum atrocities
  • Villagers from Dantewara elaborate incidents of gross violence and repression on villagers in Dantewara by Salwa Judum
  • Jilla Panchayat member narrates brutal beating, torture and arrest for 9 months, for defying Salwa Judum summons
  • People’s Convention demands immediate disbanding & disarming of Salwa Judum
  • Demands Government of India to institute high level independent enquiry into all incidents of violence including killings, ambushes, disappearances, rapes and other physical violence used on villagers by Salwa Judum
  • Demands Communist Party of India (Maoists) to stop all acts of violence, brutality and create conducive atmosphere for dialogue

[In one of the first civil society initiatives on Salwa Judum, many organizations and individuals in Delhi came together for a People’s Convention on ‘Salwa Judum: Civil War in Chhattisgarh’ on the 4th September 2007. The Convention was attended by Members of Parliament, Human Rights activists, journalists, intellectuals and others from different walks of life]

“Salwa Judum has become an uncontrolled private militia, with an absolute license to kill, rape or arson with absolute impunity from the state government and the central government”, said Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chethna Manch from Dantewara district of Chhattisgarh, where the creation of Salwa Judum has lead to a civil war situation. He added that it has become impossible for either the Chief Minister or the initiators of this brutality to control or end it now.

Kartam Joga, a District Council (Jilla Panchayat) member from Dantewara stated that he was in prison for 9 months just for defying the summons and orders of the Salwa Judum. Narrating the brutalities and torture he had to face from the SJ members and the para-military forces, Shri. Joga added that the Salwa Judum was angry with him for protesting against the burning of village houses and also for protesting and attempting to file police FIRs on killing and torture of innocent villagers.

“Salwa Judum is the by-product of BJP and Right-wing fascist forces to gain control over the adivasi areas. Salwa Judum is not any spontaneous peace campaign against the Maoists or Naxalites. It is a game-plan by the fascist forces to destroy the people and their culture and to forcefully establish the culture of hatred that the BJP represents” said Shri. Ajit Jogi, former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh and Congress Party leader. “Salwa Judum targets not just our people, culture or political opposition, it aims to eliminate democracy in Chhattisgarh”, warned the former Chief Minister.

“More than Seventy thousand people of our 700 villages are stationed in these so called Rehabilitation Camps set up by the Salwa Judum and state government. People are given rice, salt and oil in such ration that food meant for 15 days will not even serve a family a day. It is estimated the state government spends about Rs. 100 a day on every displaced family, living in the camps. The local contractors and police are absolutely hand-in-glove with the Salwa Judum and the safety and security of adivasi people are at risk and stake. Women are attacked, molested or raped at any time of the day by the Salwa Judum people or the police officers. I have got abusive phone calls from several village representatives and elected people, who could not protect even their own women from the filth of the SJ leaders or the drunken police officers” said Ajit Jogi in anguish.

The former Chief Minister stated that even after being a Congress Party leader and the former Chief Minister of the state he is unable to do anything as Salwa Judum has actually created a brutal civil war situation in the entire region, from which it looks impossible for Chhattisgarh and its people to save themselves from.

“Tribal people all over India, in mainland India as well as in the North East region are subjected to alienation from their lands and other resources and hence repression of unprecedented nature”, said Mani Charan Mai, Member of Praliament from Nagaland. He blamed the policies by the state and the central government for the unprecedented civil war ongoing in Chhatisgarh, created by the Salwa Judum militia.

The Convention demanded the Government of Chhattisgarh to immediately disband and disarm Salwa Judum and to stop recruiting Special Poice Officers (SPO). It also demanded that the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 be repealed. The Convention demanded Government of India and the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop supporting Salwa Judum and such initiatives under the cover of village defence mechanisms.

The Convention demanded that the state government and the Maoists should stop all acts of violence and initiate a situation conducive for political dialogue.

About CPJC:

The Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh is a campaign group formed by individuals and organisations who are deeply concerned about the flagrant violation of human rights going on in Chhattisgarh in the name of fighting “internal terrorism”. We are extremely concerned by the violence unleashed by the state backed Salwa Judum which has pushed Chhattisgarh into a civil war situation and the repressive Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 which is being used to crush all voices of dissent in the state.

Contact us:

Email: cpjcindia@gmail.com ; Website: www.cpjc.wordpress.com

Pravin Mote: 09313879073; Goldy George: 09958313838; Sridevi Panikkar: 09868099304


Background

In the summer of 2005, news reports started appearing of a ‘spontaneous’, ‘self-initiated’,’ peaceful’, ‘people’s movement’ in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh against the Naxalites, known as the Salwa Judum. The district administration claims that upset with the Maoist strike call on collecting tendu leaves and opposition to development works like road construction and grain levies, people in some 200 villages began mobilizing against the Maoists, going on processions and holding meetings.

However, this picture of the Salwa Judum is far from accurate. The fact is that the Salwa Judum is being led by sections of local elites, contractors and traders, that it is officially part of the official anti-naxal initiatives, being actively supported by the Chhattisgarh Government. Far from being a peaceful campaign, Salwa Judum ‘activists’ are armed with guns, lathis, axes, bows and arrows. Up to January 2007, 4048 “Special Police Officers” (SPOs) had been appointed by the Government under the Chhattisgarh Police Regulations. They actively participate in the Salwa Judum and are given military and weapons training by the security forces as part of an official plan to create a civil vigilante structure parallel to that of the Naxalites.

Though exact figures are not known, over the last two years, atleast 1, 00,000 people have been displaced and the lives of at least 3, 00,000 people from at least 644 “liberated villages” has been completely disrupted, because of Salwa Judum. People are forcibly picked up from their villages and are confined into ‘relief camps’, where they face acute shortage of food, water and other basic amenities. The condition of several thousands who have been forced to migrate to neighbouring states and districts is even worse. All those villages which have not come into camps are deemed “Maoists” villages and denied all health, education and other facilities, including access to markets. A large number of people have thus been denied their fundamental rights.

There has been a complete breakdown of civil administration and the rule of law in Dantewada district and Salwa Judum ‘activists’ have become vigilantes who assert the right to control, intimidate and punish anyone they consider to be a suspected Naxalite. Cases of murder, loot, arson, rape and other violence and atrocities by Salwa Judum go unreported. The Government does not accept responsibility for the actions of the Salwa Judum ‘activists’, it sponsors, encourages, promotes and assures them full state protection and grants them impunity to operate as an extra-legal authority within the district.

The Government’s only response to Maoist insurgency has been to militatrise; step up police operations and to pit civilians, in the name of Salwa Judum, against Maoists and against each other. By resorting to such measures, the government has seriously challenged the efficacy of democratic and constitutional means of finding solutions to people’s problems. It has completely failed to address the root of the discontent, the deprivation and alienation of Adivasis, which form basis of the Maoist foothold in Dantewara. Even according to states government’s own figures, Salwa Judum has only intensified the conflict.