Why the court disbanded Chhattisgarh’s SPOs – An unilateral but reasoned argument: Caption review of an Indian express article at humanrescueintermedia

Indian Express

Why the court disbanded Chhattisgarh’s SPOs

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/why-the-court-disbanded-chhattisgarhs-spos/820692/

Nandini Sundar Posted online: Fri Jul 22 2011, 00:39 hrs
Imagine if, in the aftermath of the Mumbai blasts, instead of improving intelligence gathering and local policing, the government set up squads of armed locals to help identify and neutralise the terrorists? Taking a cue from Chhattisgarh, where an ideal Special Police Officer is either a former Maoist, or a victim of the Maoists, the police could recruit people from families bereaved in the blasts, as also former members of the underworld, the Indian Mujahideen and Abhinav Bharat. Members of this force need only be “5th class pass”. They would be paid Rs 3000 per month with no certainty of tenure, pension or training, and guaranteed a much higher mortality rate than the regular police. In the meantime, the crores being spent on police modernisation would remain unaccounted for; and if this force preyed on the general populace, the police could simply turn a blind eye.

Sounds bizarre? However, this cheap and dirty outsourcing of guerilla war, we are told, is the only efficient way of fighting Maoism. The home ministry’s “logic” that “state governments recruit SPOs to counter the advantage that Maoist jan militias have” betrays deep envy of the Maoists. No pretence of being the impartial steel frame of the country, or of apolitical adherence to the rule of law. My militia versus yours. It is precisely against the “institutionalisation of this policing paradigm” that Justice Sudarshan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar’s recent landmark judgment on Salwa Judum is directed.

In April 2008, while hearing this case, the Chief Justice had observed: “You cannot give arms to somebody (a civilian) and allow him to kill. You will be an abettor of the offence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.” If the government succeeds in a review petition, the court will be going back on the collective wisdom of at least 10 judges who have heard this matter at one time or the other.

Since 2008, the court has repeatedly ordered the state government to file FIRs, compensate all victims, close down camps and vacate schools occupied by security forces. The state has been derelict on all counts. Instead of accusing the court of judicial overreach, they should be grateful they have not been hauled up for contempt.

While the order has been widely welcomed, much media space has been occupied by those opposed to the judges’ framing of the problem in terms of neo-liberalism. Yet few have been able to dispute their facts — the growing inequality, the massive displacement of people from their resources, the desperation that drives people to arms. Even the home ministry’s 2006 status paper conceded: “Naxalites operate in a vacuum created by inadequacy of administrative and political institutions, espouse local demands and take advantage of the prevalent disaffection and injustice among the exploited segments of the population and seek to offer an alternative system of governance which promises emancipation.” If the judges are wrong, why the need for a food security bill, resettlement and rehabilitation bill, or an integrated action plan?

I have talked to Sikh and Muslim massacre victims in Delhi 1984 and Gujarat 2002. But the Chhattisgarh situation is unique in the extent to which the victims have been silenced. The camps where people were herded in 2005 were tightly controlled by Salwa Judum leaders while access to the villages was closed off by SPOs and security forces. It was only after the CPI organised a rally across the border in Andhra Pradesh in June 2007 that villagers openly testified in writing as to what had happened. And what tragic reading this makes, written in broken Hindi and Gondi, of houses and grain burnt, of women raped, of six-year-old children drowned in ponds by Salwa Judum, SPOs and security forces. It is these testimonies which underpin the PIL filed in 2007 by Dantewada residents Kartam Joga, Manish Kunjam and Dudhi Joga, a companion petition to Nandini Sundar and others.

Now imagine that the victims of 1984, 2002 or the families of Jessica Lall or Nitish Katara had won a major legal battle, and no reporter asked for their views. In 2010, through sheer vindictiveness, the police jailed Kartam Joga on trumped up charges of being involved in Maoist attacks. No one has interviewed his family. Instead, media coverage of the verdict has focused on the reactions of the accused, interviewing rapists for whom there is a standing arrest warrant, like the SPO Kartam Surya and Salwa Judum leader Soyam Mooka. Naturally, they describe the SC order as a bad thing.

If the government is truly worried about the safety of the SPOs, they should instantly file and investigate FIRs. The guilty ones will be safest in jail, and the rest can go home or be absorbed in less dangerous occupations.

Who is the victim here — Kartam Joga, the law abiding petitioner, or Kartam Surya, the criminal SPO? And who will be the ultimate victor in this case — the Constitution, in whose name the judges have spoken, or sheer expediency? As someone who has faith in the idea of India, I have no doubt it will be the former.

The writer teaches sociology at Delhi University and was the lead petitioner in the Salwa Judum case




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