Amidst the three pillars of democracy, judiciary over the past few years has emerged as the vanguard that truly upholds the very principles of democracy. Those harboring skeptical views about the institute would not miss out this opportunity to vilify the intentions of the Apex body while also hurling out allegations of being overtly stringent and attempting to transgress boundaries, but then who cares? The very visage of those holding the precarious scales of justice in their hands at the very outset of it seemed determined to deliver justice to those who have been crying hoarse since 2006, the year after state-sponsored armed militia Salwa Judum came into existence.
Yes, another landmark judgment came like a thumping gong from the aegis of the Supreme Court in the PIL filed by sociologist Nandini Sundar, historian Ramachandra Guha, former bureaucrat EAS Sarma and others, asking the court to give direction to the state government to refrain from supporting Salwa Judum in any manner. ‘Purification Hunt’ that’s what this troupe is emblematic of referring to its literal meaning in Gondi language, should I say a ragtag group gone berserk and driven by a frenzy harped on to ethnic cleansing that resulted in gory consequences in various villages of Chattisgarh. This is not the tale of a single hamlet, rather heart-wrenching accounts of men and women who had to bear the brunt of Salwa Judum’s fury that was as unpredictable as their actions at any point of time.
It all started when the human rights activists started raising their voices against the malfeasances that had become the order of the day, all in the name of combating the Maoists yet the action of these SPOs (Sate Police Officers who were appointed under the Chattisgarh Police Act, 2007), hinted of the plausible sinister motives that was being connived and the mien of the venom spewed could be felt far and wide. A riposte posted on its respective portal by the CPJC (Campaign for Peace & Justice in Chattisgarh) unravels certain shocking instances that were found as part of the NHRC investigation into Salwa Judum on the directions of the Supreme Court in 2008, cases wherein law & order was kept on the brink and crass derring-do being committed all in the name of maniacal operations. The NCPCR (National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights) report that encompasses findings by the likes of Mr. J.M. Lyngdoh (former CEC) includes horrific accounts, testimonies by 35 people belonging to the Cherla region who complained of being inflicted with atrocities such as killing of their family members and rape of women, the dire consequences being followed since they dared to nix the intentions of Salwa Judum.
The state was in fact mired by a dilemma that on one hand had armed civilians including minors with .303s guns and on the other front had failed to administer proper training to them so that these SPOs could in fact have been turned out into the very battalion that was protecting the innocent tribal through day and night by enclosing the very precincts of their habitat as a fortress. The Matwada case is another instance belonging to the chasm that erupted between the State and its subjects that saw a sham FIR being filed by the police against the naxals in which the prima facie perpetrators were Salwa Judum and security forces that had further obliterated harmony through their latent collusion. Firm adherence to draconian laws like the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 was what one may call final nail in the coffin for that had to ensue into uber pandemonium becoming the order of day, for somehow the state government, and the security forces seemed to thrive on the subterfuge they had built so very well. Amendments made in 2004 to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 were capable enough to sabotage the growing fangs of Maoists, thus divulging the very connivance that marked the precedent of those actions.
That brings me back to the excruciating pain I had to undergo when I felt as if my sensibilities were being punk’d at and definitely seemed to be the butt of humor. For how else would you try to make the most of Chhattisgarh’s Chief Minister Raman Singh’s contention who in an interview to a leading national daily made an earnest attempt to shield the SPOs and the charade of Salwa Judum by proclaiming them as ‘Gandhians’ who combated against the naxals. The head of the State that contributed to 65% of the total naxal violence in 2008 with around 5000 SPOs in its kitty currently seemed to be in a virile mood as he looks forward to the wondrous conclusions being churned out through the Review Petition. Though the one thought ensconced in the psyche that wouldn’t dodge away like that is the quest for an affirmation that Chilkhadih and Dantewada massacres wouldn’t recur, if only the government can come up with a firm resolve on that front and help us in getting rid of those pangs of anxiety.
Undoubtedly, the judgment in ‘Nandini Sundar and Ors. Vs. State of Chhattisgarh’ is sui generis one and would herald several repercussions for good or worse in near future, the government at the state and the central level should try mitigate the bruises left in the minds of the en masse who were caught up in the maelstrom by default of having owned a piece of land in the high entropy zone of one part of the Red Corridor, India’s seemingly battle turf.