The Salwa Judum movement has been abandoned, said Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh on Sunday admitting that it had proved to be counterproductive.
Begun in 2005 as a people's resistance movement against the Maoist insurgents in the Bastar region of South Chhattisgarh, Salwa Judum attracted enormous controversy.
"Innocent people were being killed," said Singh, on the sidelines of a function here, explaining the decision.
Singh added, however, that a "peaceful campaign" to wean locals away from supporting Maoists would continue.
With the Maoists carrying out repeated, deadly attacks on the security forces over the past decade, the Salwa Judum movement raised a vigilante squad of around 4,000 tribal youth who were appointed as special police officers (SPOs), given weapons' training by the police and paid a monthly stipend by the government. It was initially Rs 1500, raised later to Rs 2500.
The Congress was as closely associated with Salwa Judum as the ruling BJP, its top leader being Mahendra Karma, a Congress MLA.
But the activities of the vigilante force attracted widespread criticism from civil rights activists. In the battle between the Salwa Judum and the Maoists, around 3 lakh ordinary villagers had to flee their homes for fear of Maoist attacks and were lodged in camps. There are currently 26 such relief camps in the Bastar region.
Salwa Judum volunteers have also had allegations of human rights abuses, rapes and murders made against them. The Supreme Court is also hearing a PIL on the Salwa Judum's legitimacy, and has already dubbed the arming of civilians, as was done here, as illegal.
What is Salwa Judum?
Salwa Judum ('peace march' in the Gond language) began in 2005 in the Bastar region of South Chhattisgarh
With the police unable to prevent attacks from Maoists, the movement aimed to train and arm civilians to take the Maoists on
Villages with Salwa Judum volunteers became targets of the Maoists forcing around 3 lakh people to abandon home and move into relief camps Salwa Judum volunteers were frequently accused of misusing their powers and terrorizing villagers