Salwa Judum – Petitioner arrested, situation worse claims affidavit

New Delhi: On September 1 last Supreme Court of India had slammed Chhattisgarh Government and directed the state to file a comprehensive affidavit on its stand towards Salwa Judum. Thereafter on September 14, the lead petitioner in the case got arrested without even a mention of his involvement in the initial FIR. This is certainly not a coincidence, pointed out Professor Nandini Sundar in an affidavit filed today before the Supreme Court.

The affidavit filed before the apex court bench of Justices BS Reddy and SS Nijjar states that petitioner Kartam Joga has been arrested on 14.09.2010 on false charges of being involved in Tadmetla ambush of 06.04.2010, which left 76 CRPF personnel dead. Noticeably, Joga was not named in the initial FIR dated on 08.04.2010 regarding the incident.

Despite promising that they (Government) would facilitate the visit of petitioners to Chhattisgarh, the petitioners according to Professor Nandini Sundar were surrounded with Special Police Officers and prevented from visiting villages. As per Sundar, Chief Secretary, Chhattisgarh has written to the petitioners not to waste their time fighting in what he has described as the “dreary law courts”.

The bench in previous hearing had slammed Chhattisgarh for submitting “vague and evasive” affidavit and had directed them to file a fresh comprehensive affidavit covering five points : 1. The present status of Salwa Judum and why it should not be disbanded; 2. Status of Relief and Rehabilitation; 3. Removal of security forces from schools and ashrams; 4. Progress on registration, investigation and trial of criminal offences; 5. An independent monitoring committee to oversee issues mentioned above.

While government today failed to file any such affidavit an unhappy court gave more time and directed them to file the affidavit before next hearing i.e. Thursday, October 28.

Ground Situation
Nandini Sundar also points out the ground realities she came across during her visit to the Naxal hit areas.

Against government claims of its complete non-existence, “Salwa Judum is in animated suspension and revived under a new name, Dandakaranya Shanti Sangharsh Samiti; villagers also refer to SPOs as Judum when they carry out arson or killings under guise of Operation Green Hunt; most importantly, Chhattisgarh Government has never acknowledged or punished illegal acts by Judum”, claimed Sundar in the affidavit.

Besides pointing out the aforesaid situation she states that “overall, one may safely conclude that there is a widespread frustration with a paramilitary focused approach, and an overwhelming desire for peace talks on all sides”.

Petitioners in this PIL of 2007, apart from Kartam Joga, include sociologist Nandini Sunder, historian Ramchandra Guha and Former Secretary, Economic Affairs (GOI) EAS Sharma among others. The PIL draws attention to the atrocities inflicted on the tribals of the region by ‘Salwa Judum’ and the armed forces. The petitioners claim that tribals are sandwiched in the war between the State, ‘Salwa Judum’ and the Naxals. They claim that ‘Salwa Judum’ is not self-motivated as claimed by the state government but state sponsored. Further, that in the name of fighting Naxals the forest land is being evacuated and given to corporates while tribals are left in miserable conditions in the camps.