'Existence of Salwa Judum necessary'
6 Oct 2008, 0232 hrs IST, Akshaya Mukul,TNN
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court-appointed NHRC investigation into Salwa Judum has justified government-sponsored arming of civilians by calling it a "spontaneous revolt of the tribals against years of atrocities and harassment suffered by them at the hands of Naxalites".
The 118-page report, submitted to SC, also dismisses most of the allegations of human rights abuses made by the petitioners in the apex court, including widely reported use of minors by Salwa Judum. Instead, the report is harsh on Naxalites for human rights abuses and sees action by Salwa Judum activists from the prism of necessary retaliation.
Only at a few places NHRC blames Salwa Judum for excesses like looting and burning of houses or makes note of the fact that many who joined did not come willingly. The report also points out that police cases were not filed against excesses by both Salwa Judum and Naxalites. But the running thread in the report is critical of Naxalites and blames them for everything.
As an afterthought, the last paragraph of the report suddenly wakes up to the fact that socio-economic deprivation has resulted in the growth of naxalism. Therefore, it suggests "multi-pronged approach" along with security-centric solutions.
The report says that 15 years after Jan Jagran Abhiyan, an earlier attempt to deal with Naxalites, "local tribals once again mustered courage to stand up to the Naxalites, which only goes to show their sense of desperation".
NHRC's bias can be seen where the report discusses human rights abuses by Salwa Judum and Naxalites.
"Allegations levelled in the petition against Salwa Judum are prima facie true to the extent of burning of houses and looting. However, the allegations against Salwa Judum of killings are not true. During the enquiry of some specific allegations, the enquiry team also did not come across any case of rape which could be substantiated," it says.
In the next paragraph, the report discusses human rights abuses by Naxalites thus, "On the other hand, the Naxalites have not only selectively killed Salwa Judum leaders and supporters, but they are also responsible for the indiscriminate killing of many tribals and security personnel."
The NHRC team could not even find out about missing villagers and leaves the issue open by stating that "it is not clear whether they have joined the Naxalites, or are hiding in the jungles, or have moved out of Chhattisgarh, or have since been killed". Getting into specific cases of killings of tribals, as alleged by petitioners in the SC, the report says it could not find any evidence.
The NHRC enquiry team also "did not find the Salwa Judum to be involved in asserting the right to control, intimidate and punish anyone they consider to be a suspected Naxalite", the report says. "Salwa Judum is primarily restricted to relief camps being run with government support," it adds.
NHRC also did not "come across any evidence to suggest that the district administration had deliberately withdrawn any development activity or service from a village because the villagers had not supported Salwa Judum".
Admitting that "Salwa Judum movement has lost its momentum now" and was merely restricted to the 23 relief camps in the Dantewada and Bijapur districts of Chhattisgarh, the NHRC team recommended that authorities should continue to provide them adequate security cover in the camps. and, in the long run, create conditions for the safe return of all the displaced families.