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After killings, focus on Salwa Judum

Voices are now again being raised within different parties on its relevance after the killings, reports Ejaz Kaiser.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2007 23:23 IST

With the massacre of 55 policemen by the Naxalites in Rani Bodli in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh the focus is now on the controversial Salwa Judum, the so-called anti-Naxalite peace campaign.



Voices are now again being raised within different political parties, social scientists and other observers over the implementation of Salwa Judum, ever since its inception in June 2005. Currently, the campaign is restricted to only four development blocks of Dantewada district. Chhattisgarh has 146 development blocks.



While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looked quite united in support of the campaign, the main opposition Congress party is a divided house with former chief minister Ajit Jogi differing from his own partymen and leader of opposition Mahendra Karma. Karma in fact projects himself as an active leader of the Judum movement.



Jogi told the

Hindustan Times

that he is not against any people's movement but opposes Salwa Judum since it is poorly planned and has taken shape as state-sponsored terror tactic leading to more violence and loss of lives of local tribals.



"During the Congress rule in Chhattisgarh the Naxalite violence was lowest but in the present BJP government there is considerable escalation of violence and now they talk about Gandhian philosophy," said Jogi.



He charged that through this campaign the police were using the tribals as a shield against the Maoists. Naxalism is primarily a socio-economic problem and should be dealt with accordingly with a strong political will, he suggested as remedial measure. "Naxalism is not a law and order problem," he said.



Reiterating his demand to call-off such a movement, Jogi lashed out at the Raman Singh government for allegedly showing no concern over the plight of poor tribals. Along with Jogi several Congress MLAs close to him are opposing the campaign, though PCC has declared its support.



Mahendra Karma claimed that the movement would yield results and hinted for expansion of movement to other Naxalite-affected areas. "Through Salwa Judum we will soon win the war against the Maoists in Chhattisgarh," Karma claimed.



Repudiating the accusations made by opponents of Salwa Judum, Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh said that tribal unity and spirit displayed through Salwa Judum cannot be suppressed any longer and it could become a pioneering movement for all Naxalite-infested states in the country. "The Naxalite movement is three decades old and definitely it needed time and sacrifice to eliminate the menace," Singh said exuding confidence that the movement would culminate into success.


He refused to admit that it is a government-sponsored movement. Both Singh and Karma participated in the Salwa Judum rallies on various occasions and addressed them in the past.



The officials in the Dantewada and Bastar districts say that the Naxalites have unleashed repeated reigns of terror out of sheer desperation as the strength of campaign has antagonized the Maoists.



And now Communist Party of India (CPI) smells conspiracy in the entire campaign. "It's a conspiracy by the state BJP leadership who are hand-in-glove with various MNCs and industries and are using Salwa Judum as a cover to get lands vacated for them in the resource rich areas of Dantewada and Bastar," alleged CPI state general secretary.



Recently, senior CPI leader AB Bardhan had expressed fear that the anti-Naxalite movement was being used to eliminate political rivals.



Retired Prof of Sociology and Anthropology, Surendra Parihar, is not ready to buy the contention that Salwa Judum is a peace campaign. "It is not a solution to Naxalite issue rather it has aggravated the problem. It is largely a government-sponsored programme conducted under the patronage of police and law enforcing agencies, created fissure in the society and divided tribal against the tribal. In fact it has given opportunity to the Naxalites to attack innocent people," he added.



Sachhidanand Joshi, theatre personality and Vice Chancellor Kushabhau Thakre University of Journalism, believes that the poor understanding of the concept of SJ and its implementation has created space for politicisation of the movement.



He rather advocates initiation of a constructive dialogue with the ultras to end the menace.



According to social activists associated with various voluntary organisations based in Dantewada and Bastar, the Salwa Judum which initially began with a good notion is now heavily politicised and serving the vested interests. "It is the tribals and poor villagers who are paying the price of the campaign," said the activist on condition of anonymity.