Apex court ire over Chhattisgarh arming Salwa Judum activists

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Thursday again ticked off the Chhattisgarh government for arming civil militia Salwa Judum activists to fight Maoists, saying it would take the state to a point of no return.

‘You will reach such a stage from where you cannot retrieve,’ said Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, ignoring denials by state government counsel K.K. Venugopal who said the state was not arming Salwa Judum activists but only special police officers appointed under the state’s laws.

‘Arming Salwa Judum activists is wrong. The state is there to protect,’ said the chief justice, reacting to Venugopal’s remarks that ‘more policemen have been killed by Naxalites than the Maoists by police’.

‘Only recently 15 policemen were killed by Maoists in Maharashtra,’ said Venugopal, in a bid to underline the countrywide menace of Left wing extremism.

As Venugopal contended that ‘local people are arming themselves’, the chief justice countered: ‘You are arming people. Where else will they get the arms? People will only be happy to have arms.’

The chief justice made the remarks while hearing a lawsuit by academicians Ramachandra Guha and Nandini Sunder and others.

The petitioners alleged that in the name of fighting Maoists, the state government was arming Salwa Judam activists and encouraging them to kill innocent tribal and villagers.

The National Human Rights Commission in September last year noted in its report that Salwa Judum activists were largely confined to state-run relief camps.

The bench, which also included Justice P. Sathasivam, asked the state government to supply the copies of the 15 criminal cases that it had registered against various alleged Salwa Judum activists who had killed tribals and villagers.

The NHRC, in its report, had also suggested some remedial measures for the state government to ensure that innocents are not killed either by Maoists or the special police officials.

The state government apprised the court of various steps taken by it as per the NHRC suggestions. The bench asked the petitioners to respond to the state government action taken report along with their suggestions.


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