The Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has given a clean chit to anti-Naxal movement Salwa Judum, accused of extra-judicial killings in tribal areas of Chhattisgarh, and held Naxals responsible for forcing it to take up arms.
In a report to the Supreme Court, the rights panel justified the anti-Naxal movement, saying, “The tribals cannot be denied the right to defend themselves against the atrocities perpetrated by the Naxalites, especially when the law enforcers are themselves ineffective or not present”.
A three-member NHRC team —which investigated the alleged rights violations by Salwa Judum highlighted in a PIL filed by activists, including historian Ramchandra Guha — found the charges to be mostly based on hearsay. Taking a dig at the petitioners, it said: “Surely, the petitioners wouldn’t support the subjugation and killings of tribals by Naxalites for years before Salwa Judum.”
Earlier, the court had taken a stern view of the state government allegedly supplying arms to Salwa Judum. “Why give arms to anybody? This way you’ll take on the role of an abettor.”
However, the NHRC probe has held the Naxals responsible for the movement turning violent. “Selective killings by Naxalites of Salwa Judum leaders and activists and attacks by Naxalites on Salwa Judum rallies were responsible to a large extent for changing the complexion of the movement from a non-violent one to an armed resistance,” it said, holding the state responsible for Naxalites having a free run in the Bastar region.
After inquiring into 168 of the 547 allegations, the NHRC said: “Many of the villagers whose names figure in the list of those allegedly killed by Salwa Judum or security forces were actually killed by the Naxalites.”
FIRs were registered in most cases and the kin compensated. Some of the villagers on the list died of natural causes while a few others were alive and still many were Naxalites.
The NHRC team — led by DIG Sudhir Chowdhary was attacked thrice by Naxals and one such incident left a police officer injured — didn’t come across any complaints of Salwa Judum collecting “taxes” from vehicle owners.
The team found just one case where Salwa Judum had killed an alleged Naxalite and no case was registered. However, it said, the possibility of other such instances couldn’t be ruled out. It has called for an independent probe into last year’s encounters in Santoshpur and Hirapuram in which nine people were killed. In another case, no FIR was lodged after security forces killed a Naxalite. Terming these as “more serious”, the NHRC reminded “the state must act within the four corners of the law even in the face of grave provocation.”
Terming the petitioners’ stand as a “narrow view”, the NHRC said the complicated problem had its roots in socio-economic deprivation, including lack of job opportunities. The team said a “security-centric approach” may not be the solution and called for a “multi-pronged strategy”.