Finally, some official voices do see the harm to democracy in using people as cannon fodder
SUDDENLY, THERE is hope. Hope and renewed confidence in the ability of the Indian State to correct itself. Observations made by a two-member Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice Aftab Alam while hearing two petitions seeking directions to the State to stop patronising the Salva Judum have established that the fundamental constitutional principles have not given way to the expediencies of present- day politics. What our learned judges have done is to state the obvious that the government cannot arm the militia and allow it to kill as doing so would make it an abettor under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Is it not elementary, one would ask? Frankly, one had little hope from the highest court of the land given that another SC bench rejected the bail petition of civil rights activist Dr Binayak Sen where the bench did not deem it fit to verify the blatant lies of State counsel Gopal Subramaniam about Dr Sen’s Maoist connections. It was as if one could justify any illegal act of the State by raising the spectre of Maoism.
At the trial stage, the prosecution had built its argument against Dr Sen on the ground that he was opposing the Salva Judum. As if criticising the Salva Judum was an act of sedition. One remembers Mahendra Karma, the notorious brain behind Salva Judum, claiming in an interview to TEHELKA that Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar was opposing the Judum because she was a Maoist. Incidentally, Sundar is one of those who have filed the petition challenging Salva Judum. What is more horrifying is that in its reply, the State has described Sundar and other petitioners as pro- Maoists hellbent on demoralising the government and the police by criticising the Salva Judum. Read it with the pronouncement of the Chhattisgarh DGP that Shankar Guha Niyogi was a Naxalite. His intention becomes clear when one realises that the Niyogi-founded Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha is in the forefront of the opposition to the Salva Judum. Are they not aware that Maoists are unhappy with scholars like Sundar who have criticised their use of violence? Doesn’t the State know that Niyogi invented a new language of politics that differed from the Maoists’?
There is a definite pattern in the State’s depiction of the Salva Judum’s critics as either Maoists or sympathisers. The recommendation of the private militia’s disbanding by the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily, just after the Supreme Court’s comments on Salva Judum, is also remarkable. Moily is unambiguous when he says that cam