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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1979

Maoist movement in India and "Salwa Judum," - State sponsored paramilitary movement

By Subash Mohapatra - Founder and Director of FFDA

India is undergoing a long term low intensity civil war which barely appears on the media and is scarcely debated in international forums. Even then during January and June of this year, 460 persons have been killed in nine Naxalite-affected states: 90 security personnel, 189 alleged Naxalites and 181 civilians. In his address to the Second Standing Committee Meeting on 13 April 2006 Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, urged to take two-prong strategy: effective police response and socio-economic development of the Naxalite affected areas. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) guards the camp Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) guards the camp

The Naxalites is a Maoist ideological armed movement receiving its name after a peasant’s armed uprising at Naxalbari in West Bengal on 1967. Their funding main goal is to improve the situation of Adivasis –Indigenous Indian- who constitute roughly the 8 per cent of the nation's total population.

The rebel movement’s roots are found on the lack of rehabilitation which has characterized the industrialization of the country as well as the state abuses against the Indigenous Indian. Probably the more ignominious injustice is represented on the common practice of seizing the land of Adivasis forcibly. For instance, in May 2001, government of India’s National Mineral Development Cooperation (NMDC) decided to establish a steel plant at Bastar district of Chhattisgarh. The lands of the Adivasis were appropriated even without financial or housing compensation.

The Naxalites’ ultimate goal may be seen as legitimate, but its means are far to be arguable. The Maoist movement is collecting taxes from the villagers, extorting, killing and kidnapping the worn out Adivasi population in a race to spread its area of influence. In order to increase the number of fighters, the Maoists abduct Adivasi children, both boys and girls, and training them in the use of weapons and deal with explosives.

Today the Naxalite movement extends mainly over Middle India on states as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Chhattisgarh where in some areas, have substitute the local government rule, punishing corrupt officials and making the agricultural contractors increase the wage rated. The vast area, through which this armed group operates, provides them a tremendous space for mobility. It is one of the key reasons the local and central governments are desperate in their fierce struggle to annihilate the Maoist rebels from India.

In order to achieve that goal, the Indian authorities have so far proved that there are no limits in the race to combat Naxalites. Since the last few years, the legality of the governmental forces’ actions are more that dubious. The more obvious case is located within the state of Chhattisgarh and is named as Salwa Judum.
According with the government of Chhattisgarh, Salwa Judum began as a legitimate people's movement, uprising on the part of the villagers who had been abused by the Naxalites or forced to submit to their rule, especially on the areas of Bhairamgarh, Geedam and Bijapur.

But there are loads of definite proofs leading to state the Salwa Judum movement –meaning ironically in Gondi language ‘peace march’- is a state sponsored violent counter-insurgency program. The politicians who lead this dark organization have conceived a system which uses the temporary relief camps, constructed to shelter the displace communities from Naxalites affected areas, as centers for military and training and anti-Naxalite indoctrination education.Tribal, including women and children looking at the CRPF-"Why these people bring war to our home?"Tribal, including women and children looking at the CRPF-"Why these people bring war to our home?"

The police and Central Reserve Police Force officers have been providing training in fire-arms and other counter-insurgency operations to the Special Police Officers (SPOs), recruited from the camp inmates. Adivasi boys and girls have been recruited as SPOs in the Chhattisgarh district of Dantewada with a monthly payment of Rs 1,500. The ultimate goal is to impel the desperate and defenseless refugees to provoke the Maoists into fratricidal violence and reinforce the fissures in the tribal communities, decimating the social base of the movement.

The mechanism to attract people to this government sponsored group is quite simple: Salwa Judum organizes meetings in the refugee camps to indoctrinate villagers. People that refuse to participate are accused to hold linkages of friendship with Maoists and therefore facing repeated attacks by the forces of Salwa Judum. These raids result in looting, arson and killings in many instances. As their houses and villagers are destroyed, the Adivasis have to join one of the “relief camps”.

According to official estimates around 15,000 people from 420 villages are living as refugees in temporary camps. These have been built without minimum equipment to cover the needs of the people, turning into military camps since the tribals living there have not more options than joining Salwa Judum in order to get shelter and food.

The Maoist know that and consequently, last Monday the rebels raided the government-run relief camp of Arabone (510 kilometers south of Raipur, the state capital of Chhattisgarh), killing 20 inmates and firing at least 20 houses recently constructed for Salwa Judum as well as abducting many innocent civilians.

The southern Chhattisgarh district of Bastar is the area more affected by the conflict. Many of its inhabitants have abandoned their fields and villages fearing retaliation either by the Naxalites for opposing them or by the Salwa Judum forces. Consecutively they are being slaughtered by both sides, murdered thoughtlessly. For instance, Naxalites followed a policy of forcibly recruiting one cadre from each family: in numerous cases, members of the same family have been pitted against each other.

'Families and villages are divided, one half living with or in fear of the Maoists, the other half in fear of or in roadside camps controlled by the Salwa Judum,' as Mr. Guha, a historian and sociologist told Indo Asian News Service.

The Salwa Judum has a strong support among upper class of local society as sarpanches –local authorities-, traditional leaders whose power has been threatened by the Maoists and powerful local businessmen. In a national level, both the local Congress and the BJP –Indian People’s Party- support the Salwa Judum.

If India wants to continue be seeing as the world largest democracy, this sort of state schemes as Salwa Judum must be pursued, compulsorily banned and their instigators accordingly imprisoned, regardless their position in the army, police departments or local government. Delhi must be able to face its internal threats respecting both Indian Constitution basics and the international body of human right treaties signed as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Although no law or covenant is needed to comprehend that if a state follows the same methods to defend their goals that the insurgent group it is fighting against, many may label both as terrorist.

Mr.Subash Mohapatra is the founder and director of the Forum for Fact-finding, Documentation and Advocacy (FFDA), an Indian Human Rights organisation. Mr. Mohapatra has written ten books on the situation of the human rights in India. Among his greatest achievements as a leader for the FFDA, he showned legal expertise at the first official lesbian marriage in India and filled dozens of successful Public Interest Litigations which have boosted some legislative changes.

- Asian Tribune -

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