Since June 2005, the Government of Chhattisgarh, with the support of the Home Ministry has been waging a counter-insurgency operation against the Naxalites in the guise of a ‘spontaneous’, ‘selfinitiated’,’ peaceful’, ‘people’s movement’ named the Salwa Judum in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. 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 the fact is that the Salwa Judum is 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 atleast 3, 00,000 people from the 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 protectionand grants them impunity to operate as an extra-legal authority within the district. The Maoists also retaliate with attacks on camps, SPOs and police. According to State government’s own figures, Salwa Judum has only intensified the violence from both sides.
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.