The abandoned ones: Life of a former SPO in Chhattisgarh
In 2005, when Salwa Judum--a government-sponsored vigilante movement to fight Maoists—was active, it mobilised more than 6,000 tribal youth in Chattisgarh’s Maoists-affected districts to work as special police officers (SPO). In 2011, the Supreme Court banned Judum and ordered the state government to stop using SPOs in counter-insurgency operations. As a result, hundreds of villagers found themselves jobless. Having stood out for taking a position against Maoists, these former SPOs now find their lives oscillating between uncertainty and terror. They do odd jobs, don’t go home fearing for their lives, shuddering each time they hear of former SPOs being killed by Maoists, and are unsure if the government will consider them for any jobs in future.