Bloody Peace

Mahendra Karma could have never imagined this coming. He was a man on a mission, a Gandhi in the making. On that fateful summer of 2005 when his brain child, the Salwa Judum came into existence, he must have been so proud! Just that one little detail must have slipped from his mind – if you play with the rule of law, the rule of law might just cease to exist. Let me begin from well, the beginning.

Salwa Judum, as it is known, was supposed to be a spontaneous and self initiated movement based on non violence (Gandhian Movement), to counter the naxal violence in Dhantewada district of Chattisgarh (formerly a part of Bastar district). The government, totally helpless against the onslaught of naxal violence, hailed this People’s Peace Movement and backed it publicly. It found rhythm among certain tribal sections too as people joined the forces and soon Salwa Judum was a power to reckon with.

And now, our story takes a gruesome turn. As you may already know, power corrupts; well, Salwa Judum took it to a completely different level.

First let me inform you a little about the increase in naxal violence after the government started arming the Salwa Judum at a rate consistent with counter insurgency operations across the country (so much for Mr. Gandhi). That was also probably the end of Karma’s dream of winning the Nobel Peace Price.

In 2006, 36 tribals were killed by naxals in Erabore Camp. Mind you it was only after Salwa Judum came into being that the naxalites started targetting the tribals.

In 2007, 49 boys of the Salwa Judum were killed when naxalites attacked the Ranibodli Police Post.

And in 2007 again, the naxalites made a very strong statement by freeing 299 undertrials from the Dhantewada prison.

It is however a very small window of facts that I have opened for you. And even worse are the facts that I am going to reveal. How things are conducted by the government backed Salwa Judum are a lesson in how not to run a state unless of course you want to win a Nobel Violence Prize (that too is coming up, very soon).

So then, where were we? Yes, the Salwa Judum’s method of running affairs.

First of all, as against the notion of Salwa Judum being a spontaneous response of the adivasis, it is actually an organised state managed enterprise whose main cadres known as the Special Police Officers (SPOs) are being paid and armed by the state.

This state backed organisation has so far emptied around 600 villages across the Dhantewada district in the name of security. Over 15000 people are cramped up in 23 camps. These villages are being converted to military stations. In fact such is the rate of militarisation in here that the feeling is as if there is an undeclared war on.

Whenever Salwa Judum calls a meeting, people from neighbouring villages are compelled to attend it. Otherwise, rebel villages have to face the attacks of the combined forces of Salwa Judum, the district forces and the para-military Naga battalion which is stationed there. Once in the camps, the people have to support the Salwa Judum, sometimes even have to participate in the attacks on their own or neighbouring villages. There even have been instances when the Salwa Judum has forcibly taken young people away from their families who till now have no clue of their whereabouts.

With all of this happening, I should think you have already guessed the kind of complete collapse of civil administration that these areas have witnessed. Salwa Judum has taken total control of the running of affairs and is assisted by the security forces. They even enforce economic blockades on rebel villages.

And the only crimes that are recorded here are those that are committed by the naxalites. The looting, burning, beating and even killings by the Salwa Judum don’t find any mention in the police records. Some reports suggest that the Salwa Judum is responsible for at least 96 killings in 34 villages.

Even as I write thisarticle, people in the affected district are being encouraged to take up arms, village defense communities are still being set up, SPOs are being trained and armed and the entire society is becoming more militaristic.

This has had an adverse affect on tribal life in a state that has a large tribal population. Their culture is being washed away by their own blood. A person for whom his land is sacred, has to see his own blood spilt on it.

My question is…

For how long will innocent people have to pay price for the inability of the State? Their continued negligence has claimed a lot of lives in Dhantewada!

As far as Gandhi and Karma are concerned, both have dabbled in peace with different colours. Karma’s one is red…

Purav Gowswami


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