In Chhattisgarh, a game of smoke and mirrors is being played out. While the Centre harps on development to counter the Maoists, the BJP government in the state is merrily continuing with its scorched earth policy.
For many months, the state has been talking of disbanding the Salwa Judum and disarming its special police officers (SPOs). But there is a mismatch between its action and the reality on the ground.
This was evident again earlier this month when security forces allegedly burnt down 300 tribal houses in Tadmetla, Morpalli and Timapuram villages in Dantewada during a combing operation.
Days later, despite an assurance of security from chief minister Raman Singh, the SPOs attacked the Centre’s Naxal interlocutor Swami Agnivesh while he was visiting the affected villages.
However, on Tuesday, there was some good news: the Supreme Court directed the commissioners of the court and the district collector of Dantewada to visit the three villages where food scarcity and hunger deaths were reported and give a report to the bench.
After the mayhem that was unleashed by the forces, any sensible government would have pulled up the officers involved in this alleged crime — in this case the former Dantewada police chief SRP Kalluri — to send out a message loud and clear to the people.
But instead of punishing him, the authorities have just transferred the senior superintendent of police (SSP) to another field posting in Sarguja, also a ‘Maoist-hit’ district.
It also transferred the collector, R Prasanna, who was in fact doing his duty in sending relief to the affected area, to a ‘softer’ posting elsewhere.
Mr Kalluri, known to routinely instigate SPOs against civil society activists, even stopped the relief trucks that had been sent.
The State vs State brawl does not end here: an additional superintendent of police who was pelted with stones along with Swami Agnivesh, has not been able to lodge an FIR.
It doesn’t take much imagination to realise how far more difficult it must be for aggrieved tribals to file a case at the police station.
Today, two important cases related to the Chhattisgarh will come up before the Supreme Court. The first public interest litigation (PIL) case has been going on for years.
The petitioners have been asking the Chhattisgarh government to register FIRs and show the action taken on compensation and rehabilitation to victims of conflict, regardless of the perpetrator. The state government has filed 11 affidavits since 2008.
In all of them, it has been silent on any compensation to victims of the Salwa Judum and security force violence. The other PIL relates to the murder of a tribal woman and children.
It is time that an independent judicial inquiry is ordered into all cases of Naxal-related death, arson, rape and injury since 2005, and a monitoring committee set up to oversee compensation and rehabilitation issues.