Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Salwa Judum ball in govt court

The Centre may oppose disbanding Salwa Judum, but Union home minister Shivraj Patil played it safe and put the ball in the state government’s court to decide about the group’s continuity.

“Salwa Judum — a state-backed, armed campaign launched by the people against Chhattisgarh rebels — is a state matter and the state government should decide whether to continue or disband it,” he told reporters in Jagdalpur after visiting Aranpur and Pamed — the worst-hit Naxalite pockets in Bastar today.

Patil’s statement gains significance in the backdrop of Supreme Court’s disapproval of the constitution of Salwa Judum by Chhattisgarh government and giving citizens arms to tackle the red menace.

The Centre, on the other hand, strongly opposed the disbanding. Patil tried to play down the issue and when asked of the “disbanding”, he did not come out in its defence — the way the Centre did earlier.

Last time in February when Patil came to Chhattisgarh, he appreciated the government for its operation against the rebels.

Today, he was more cautious. “I am not ‘unsatisfied’ with the government’s steps,” he added.

The chance in track is also linked with the recent Bastar visit (April 26) of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. During his interaction with Congressmen and representatives of NGO’s, Rahul heard much more against the campaign, than in its favour.

Even he could see the rift between Chhattisgarh Congress factions on the issue.

The Leader of Opposition, Mahendra Karma, is a supporter of the campaign, which former chief minister and his bête-noire Ajit Jogi opposes. Karma belongs to the camp led by party president Charandas Mahant.

“The possibility of Congress high-command re-designing its stand on Salwa Judum after Rahul’s (Discover India) visit to Bastar cannot be ruled out,” a senior Congress leader, willing not to be named, told The Telegraph.

Sources said the matter has been discussed in the high levels of the Congress, as was apparent from Patil’s visit.

Today, the minister dashed off to CRPF camps in Aranpur and Pamed, where he discussed anti-Naxalite operations with the jawans. He also met selected tribal villagers and held a meeting with officials in Jagdalpur.

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