Following the Supreme Court (SC) rap on Tuesday, asking it to “cease and desist” from using special police officers (SPOs) to counter Maoists, the Chhattisgarh government is mulling a review petition against the order.
“After seeking legal advice on the verdict, the government will decide the future course of action. We respect the order, but will keep our options open to file a review petition,” state home minister Nanki Ram Kanwar said.
Senior police officers in Chhattisgarh feared the SC order might affect the anti-Maoist operations in the inhospitable hilly and forest terrain. Officially, however, the state police played down the role of the SPOs. “We don’t think the court order would affect the anti-Maoist drive significantly,” said Ram Niwas, additional director-general of police (anti-Maoist operations).
The police in the Bastar region feared the SPOs might now be exposed to Maoist action. “We will do whatever possible to ensure the safety of the SPOs and seek their suitable placement. They will not remain unemployed,” said Kanwar. He accused the petitioners of working as Maoist sympathisers.
There are around 4,800 SPOs in Chhattisgarh, 90% of them deployed in the Bastar region. They are paid a monthly remuneration of R3,000, in which the Centre’s contribution is 80%.
Reacting to the SC order against the anti-Maoist Salwa Judum movement, state home secretary NK Aswal said: “We have already clarified this many times in the past. Salwa Judum no longer exists. Once we get the court’s order we will abide by it and disarm the SPOs.”
Meaning ‘peace march’ in the local Gondi language, the Salwa Judum movement was launched in June 2005 and has since courted controversy.
The SC also came down heavily on the state for appointing Koya commandos (a unit of local tribals raised by the state police from among the SPOs to tackle Maoist insurgency). “We act as guides and fight along with the forces in the remote jungle terrain of Bastar,” Kartam Surya, a Koya commando told HT.
The Congress, meanwhile, blamed the state government for forcing innocent tribals, who were once victims of Maoist violence, to become SPOs and arming them to fight the guerillas.