When Development Comes At Gunpoint – The Return Of Salwa Judum

Posted on May 26, 2015 in Society

By Devika Kohli:

The Revival of a ‘banned’ movement
Chhavindra Karma the son of the Mahendra Karma (a Congress leader who spearheaded the Salwa Judum in 2005 and was killed along with his party colleagues in a Maoist attack two years ago) recently announced his plans to launch Salwa Judum 2 in Bastar. The apparent objective of the movement is to create “awareness among the adivasis about how Naxals are playing havoc with their lives”. I say apparent because clearly Mr. Karma has turned a blind eye to the fact that the Salwa Judum movement (launched to curb the Naxal presence in the Chhattisgarh area) had been declared “illegal” and “unconstitutional” by the Supreme Court under the charge that the Salwa Judum militia had indulged in gross human rights violations and had inflicted unaccountable atrocities on the people in the form of extortion, mass killings, rape, burning of villages, forced displacement, amongst other heinous crimes. Thus, Mr. Karma’s statement made during an interview with Asian age that “our movement will be peaceful and we will ensure that no harm is done to any section of tribals, including those who are Naxal-sympathisers out of compulsion” comes across as hollow especially because Salwa Judum also was propagated to be a peaceful campaign at the time.


Why is the government silent?
In view of the above discussed facts, the silence of the government over the public announcement to revive the Salwa Judum movement under the banner of Vikas Sangharsh Samiti or Salwa Judum 2 is rather befuddling, or is it? The fact that this announcement comes at the same time as the government signing agreements worth 24 crores for investment in the Bastar region cannot be discarded as a mere coincidence. Nor can we ignore the fact that the announcement of Salwa Judam in 2005 had similarly coincided with the government signing MOU’s with corporate houses like Tata and Essar the very same year.

What is the truth about Salwa Judum 2?
CPI (Maoist) Danda Karanya Special Zonal Committee (ZKSZC) spokesperson Gudsa Usendi is of the opinion that the “Salwa Judum-2 is nothing but a Hindutva fascist BJP government-sponsored murderous goons gangster organization formed by the Congress Karma family and the goons of BJP and anti-people elements”. He further adds that “All these initiatives are actually campaigns to repress the people. The Salwa Judum-2 in the name of peace and development is to sell off the natural property of the state to the domestic and foreign capitalists.” Shankar Sodhi, a senior tribal leader from Bastar in his interview with Firstpost states that “This is nothing but an attempt by the state government to assure the industry of its determination to clear the area for them.” He goes on to add that “Already thousands of MoUs worth thousands of zeros are gathering dust in Raipur.” Thus, tackling the issue of land seems to have become of utmost urgency for the government so as to be able to honour the MOUs which could not be implemented because of the threat of Naxalism in the Bastar area.

Wilful ignorance
The fact that Mr. Karma blames “the Naxal-sympathiser NGOs as well as the Chhattisgarh government” for the collapse of Salwa Judum which he describes as a “unique civil movement against insurgency” is rather disconcerting. What about the claims that were made by the State of Chhattisgarh that it had the powers to arm, with guns, thousands of illiterate or barely literate young men, who appointed as temporary police officers, with little or no training to fight the battles against alleged Maoist extremists and the resulting atrocities in view of which these so called “naxal sympathisers” such as Dr. Nandini Sunder, had decided to take action and file a petition in the court. Also his statement made to Hindu that “We are opposed to setting up mega industries in Bastar that will cause large-scale displacement of tribals” comes across as rather surprising as “more than 3, 50,000 tribals were forced to displace by Salwa Judum, the state sponsored militia” .