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Implement The Supreme Court Order on Salwa Judum and SPOs

21 July 2011

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PRESS RELEASE 18 July 2011

We strongly welcome the Supreme Court order by Justice Sudershan Reddy and Justice SS Nijjar declaring the use and arming of SPOs as well as state support for Salwa Judum unconstitutional and directing the state to disarm SPOs, stop using them in counterinsurgency operations, as well as file FIRs and prosecute them vigorously, as also the CBI enquiry into the Tadmetla attacks. This landmark order is not a victory for any one side, but a victory for the Constitution itself over those who seek to violate and destroy it.

We are at the same time dismayed by the response of the state and union governments to this order. Even now, the state government is refusing to accept – despite all the evidence established to the contrary – that Salwa Judum was a violent, illegal, unconstitutional movement, supported by the government, which was responsible for attacking some 644 villages, killing hundreds of people, raping women and burning thousands of homes, destroying crores of rupees worth of paddy and property.

This refusal to accept the court’s verdict is, however, nothing new. Right from 2008 when the Court has been directing the state to show what action it has taken to file FIRs, compensate people who have been victims of Salwa Judum, SPOs and security forces at the same rates as compensation to the victims of Naxalites, rehabilitate affected villages, bring the IDPs (internally displaced people) back from Andhra Pradesh, close down the camps, and vacate schools occupied by security forces – the state government has consistently ignored the Court’s directions. Not only this, in 2010, they arrested Kartam Joga, the lead petitioner in WP 119/2007, one of the three cases on which this order has been passed, on completely trumped up charges. He is still in jail along with Kopa Kunjam and Sukhnath, whose sole crime was helping to resettle villagers who had been attacked by Salwa Judum. It is clear that the Government has nothing but contempt for both the Court and the Constitution.

And yet the state and union governments claim to be fighting for ‘India’ sending thousands of security forces to die in operations against their own people. Is this the India that they are fighting for – a state which does not believe in its own laws?

Had the state government arrested even one SPO or Salwa Judum leader –including those who are roaming free despite being convicted by the trial court of rape – there would be no room for worry that they would be vulnerable to Maoist reprisals. However, the Maoists too must heed the Court’s wise words and leave it to the law to take its own course as far as punishing SPOs and Salwa Judum leaders go. It is not up to them to offer amnesty to SPOs who have committed crimes. They must be punished under the proper legal process.

By locating the fundamental problem in the amoral political economy of the country, but simultaneously grounding the solution in the vision of the constitution to nurture people’s aspirations and defend their fundamental rights, the Court has courageously shown the way forward. The question is whether both sides are intelligent and brave enough to understand the importance of this order.

We call upon the Government of India, the state of Chhattisgarh and CPI (Maoist) to immediately enable the implementation of the Court’s orders to bring relief to the people of Chhattisgarh. Social, political and economic justice will act as a major confidence building measure, and it is only on this basis that the path to peace can be paved.

Citizens Initiative for Peace,

People’s Union for Civil Liberties

People’s Union for Democratic rights.

Delhi Solidarity Group

National Alliance of People’s Movements