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Stalled Salwa Judum Judgement

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July 05, 2021

What is the issue?

  • The Salwa Judum judgement was delivered 10 years ago in 2011.
  • But nothing has been done so far to implement it.

What is the Salwa Judum judgement?

  • Salwa Judum is a vigilante movement started in 2005.
  • It was sponsored by the Chhattisgarh and Central government, to fight against the Maoists.
  • On July 5, 2011, Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar, in a historic judgment, banned Salwa Judum.
  • The surrendered Maoists and untrained villagers were used in frontline counter-insurgency operations as Special Police Officers (SPOs).
  • The Court ruled this practice as unconstitutional.
  • It directed that the existing SPOs be redeployed in traffic management or other such safe duties.
  • Other matters were left pending.
  • These included prosecution of security forces and others involved in human rights violations, and rehabilitation of villagers who had suffered violence.
  • The State had been asked to submit comprehensive plans for these.

How was the State’s response?

  • Ten years on, nothing has been done to implement the judgment.
  • Instead, the State government has merely renamed the SPOs.
  • They are now known working as the District Reserve Guard (DRG).
  • Most of the DRG members are captured or surrendered Maoists.
  • They are given automatic weaponry as soon as they join the police force.
  • Some of them get one-three months of training, and some not even that.
  • They commit the most excesses against their former fellow villagers.
  • They suffer the most casualties in any operation.
  • But, they are paid much less than the regular constabulary.
  • These were all the reasons the judges had outlawed their use, but all of them continues.
  • A contempt petition filed in 2012 in this regard is still awaiting hearing.

What are the excesses committed over the years?

  • At its peak between 2005 and 2007, the Judum involved forcing villagers into government-controlled camps.
  • Those who refused were punished by having their villages burnt.
  • Hundreds of people were killed, and their deaths were not even recorded as ‘encounters’.
  • Villagers fled to neighbouring States or into the forests around their villages.
  • Sangham members were either jailed or compelled to join the security forces as SPOs.
  • [Sangham members are the active but unarmed Maoist sympathisers.]
  • Thousands of innocent villagers were arrested en masse by the police as suspected Maoists.
  • They spend long years in jail before being acquitted.
  • For such villagers, meeting their families is difficult and hiring lawyers drains their meagre resources.
  • Even as a few dedicated human rights lawyers have tried to help, the scale of arrests is massive.
  • Deaths in encounters between jawans and Maoists periodically hit the national headlines.
  • But extrajudicial killings of villagers and Maoists and killings of suspected informers by Maoists continue at a steady pace without much notice.  

What is the present condition?

  • Today, the Judum camps are virtually empty.
  • Only the former SPOs and their families are remaining, in now permanent houses.
  • Villagers split between those who went to the camp and those who went to the forest are now reconciled.
  • People have come back and started cultivation.
  • An entire generation has grown up and have embarked on new struggles.
  • Across the region, villagers are demanding schools and health centres.
  • Instead, what they have got in abundance are CRPF camps at intervals of less than 5 km.
  • Roads are being bulldozed through what were once dense forests.
  • The government and security forces have been indicted in some cases by independent inquiries.
  • But no steps have been taken to prosecute those responsible.
  • Moving forward, both sides should get serious about peace talks.


Source: The Hindu

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