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Contempt for law and constitutional values

Bloodstains will remain

by Binayak Sen, Illina Sen, 2 August 2011

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The Week, 31 July 2011

The recent Supreme Court judgment in the Nandini Sundar and Others v. the State of Chhattisgarh (popularly known as the Salwa Judum judgment) case promises to become one of the foundational documents of our democratic polity. Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar are animated by an acute analysis of the overall situation which acts as the context for the lawlessness of the Salwa Judum. The judgment castigates the constitutionality of the governance model in the area ravaged by the Salwa Judum in the strongest terms: “Tax breaks for the rich and guns for the youngsters amongst poor, so that they keep fighting amongst themselves, seem to be the new mantra from the mandarins of security and high economic policy of the state. This, apparently, is to be the grand vision for the development of a nation that has constituted itself as a sovereign, secular, socialist and democratic republic.”

The judgment, however, did not fix culpability for the bloodstains on the walls of our sovereign, secular, socialist, democratic republic on any of the senior policymakers who are actually responsible for the illegitimacy of the Salwa Judum and its illegitimate socio-political foundation.

The judgment does specifically and clearly direct the Union and the state governments that all Special Police Officer activity be stopped and that the SPOs be disarmed forthwith. How have the governments concerned responded to the order? The Chhattisgarh government, which has taken steps to take away the arms of the SPOs and confine them to the thanas ‘in the interests of security’, has made it clear that it will relax educational and physical requirements in the recruitment of regular police constables in the Naxal-affected districts, and would fill up all vacant posts in these districts with local recruits.

The chief minister of Chhattisgarh has also expressed the hope that 80 per cent of the SPOs may be adjusted in the fresh recruitment of police constables. And if some SPOs are still left out, efforts will be made to help them gain the requisite educational qualifications. In other words, the SPOs are actually going to be promoted to regular policemen with regular salaries! The Union government has chosen to be silent.

In a similar vein, the chief minister of West Bengal has declared that she will recruit 10,000 policemen from the Jangal Mahal area. Police personnel thus recruited would be posted in their home districts. She specifically addressed the youth and told them if they had to take up guns, they should take up sarkari (government) guns. It is very difficult to differentiate this from what the Chhattisgarh government is doing. Not only is all of this justified in the name of our security interests, but it appears that the Salwa Judum option (for want of a better phrase) is still considered a viable policy option by our political leaders.

Thus the entire argument presented so elaborately in the judgment is short-circuited. The question of the illegitimacy of the expropriation, the brutality of the displacement and the acute moral hazard of subjecting Indian citizens to an Indian military intervention are bypassed. The issue of the continuing Green Hunt is put aside. The entire conundrum is reduced by those in power to an administrative exercise regarding salaries payable to, and functional classification allotted, to a set of police employees. The spirit of the order is completely left out of accounting, and the specific directions are accepted only technically and with bad grace.

If this is not contempt for our constitutional values and for the highest court in the land, what is?

Binayak and Ilina Sen are prominent social activists.


The above article from The Week is reproduced here for educational purposes and is for non commercial use only.