Salwa Judum Verdict : Outcome after 10 years – UPSC GS3

Utility: The Salwa Judum judgment was delivered 10 years ago. Hence important.
  • The Supreme Court (SC) delivered a historic judgment on 5th July 2011 in Nandini Sundar and others versus the State of Chhattisgarh case.
  • The judgment was aimed to curb the misuse of power by the government and protect tribal rights.
Salwa Judum Judgment:
  • The court banned Salwa Judum.
  • It was a vigilante movement started in 2005 and sponsored by the Chhattisgarh and Central government.
  • The movement ostensibly aimed to fight against the Maoists.
  • The judges also ruled that the use of surrendered Maoists and untrained villagers in frontline counter-insurgency operations as Special Police Officers (SPOs) was unconstitutional.
  • It directed that the existing SPOs be redeployed in traffic management or other such safe duties.
  • Other matters like prosecution of security forces for human rights violations, and rehabilitation of villagers who had suffered violence, were left pending. The State had been asked to submit comprehensive plans for this.
Situation before the judgement:
  • At its peak between 2005 and 2007, the Judum involved forcing villagers into government-controlled camps.
  • Those who refused were punished by having their villages burnt. Hundreds of people were killed, and their deaths were not even recorded as ‘encounters’.
  • Villagers fled to neighbouring States or into the forests around their villages. Sangham members (active but unarmed Maoist sympathisers) were either jailed or compelled to join the security forces as SPOs.
Implementation of judgment by the state:
  • Ten years on, nothing has been done to implement the judgment. Instead, the State government has merely renamed the SPOs. They are now known as the District Reserve Guard (DRG).
  • Most DRGs are captured or surrendered Maoists and are given automatic weaponry as soon as they join the police force. Some of them get one-three months of training, and some not even that.
  • They commit excesses against their former fellow villagers, suffer the most casualties in any operation. However, they are paid much less than the regular constabulary. Due to this apprehension, judges had outlawed their use.
Situation after the judgment:
  • Today, the Judum camps are virtually empty with only the former SPOs and their families, staying in now permanent houses. Villagers split between those who went to the camp and those who went to the forest are now reconciled.
  • People have come back and started cultivation. An entire generation has grown up and across the region, villagers are demanding schools and health centres. Instead, what they have got in abundance are CRPF camps.
  • The security forces have vacated the schools as per SC directive. However, they  undertook a larger takeover of public land and private fields.
  • No steps have been taken to prosecute government officials or security forces for their atrocities on tribals. For instance, CBI filed a charge sheet in 2011 against security forces for burning tribal villages, but they were not punished.
  • Extrajudicial killings of villagers and Maoists and killings of suspected informers by Maoists continue at a steady pace, rarely hitting any high publicity note.
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