Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Centre makes strong pitch for Salwa Judum in SC

NEW DELHI: Making public secret intelligence gathered from Naxal documents from Chhattisgarh's Bastar and Dantewada regions, the Centre on Tuesday made a strong pitch for continuance of village self-defence groups - Salwa Judum - as a necessary counterweight against red ultras' attempt to impose their writ on a huge area.

"Salwa Judum, activists of which are designated as special police officers, is consciously funded by the Centre to save the tribals, who were displaced from the jungles by Naxalites, and protect people from being killed by Naxalites," said additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam.

Though he said that Centre would not have any objections to National Human Rights Commission probing individual human rights cases due to alleged excesses by Salwa Judum activists, Subramaniam's submission made it clear that government was not going to relent on its support to Judum. He was supported by Chhattisgarh government, which also opposed a PIL that has challenged arming of private individuals by the government.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran directed NHRC, which had already taken note of the matter and issued notices to the governments of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, to constitute a committee that would inquire into the excesses by Salwa Judum activists as alleged by the petitioners.

The bench directed NHRC to inquire into the allegations and submit a report before it in eight weeks.

Subramaniam said the Centre was in full agreement with Chhattisgarh in countering the naxal menace. All Naxal documents collected from the affected areas suggested that their leadership has exhorted the cadre to annihilate all resistance to their undergound movement, he said.

"Situation is of considerable concern both to the Centre and state. Policemen are not ready to step into the forests. Though 17,000 posts are sanctioned for anti-naxal force, the state government is finding it very difficult to fill them. That is why the self-defence force was organised to save people from becoming sitting ducks for the Naxals," he said.

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