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The Supreme Court categorically ordered the disbanding of Special Police Officers and Salwa Judum!



In a judgment yesterday on 5 July, the Supreme Court declared the deployment of tribal youths as Special Police Officers (SPOs), Koya commandos, Salwa Judum or any other name to be illegal and unconstitutional, and has ordered its immediate disbanding. Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S. S. Nijjar strongly condemned the state for violating constitutional principles by arming and vesting powers of the police on the adivasi youths in Chhattisgarh. The Supreme Court categorically directed to "cease and desist, forthwith, from using any of its funds in supporting, directly or indirectly the recruitment of SPOs for the purposes of engaging in any form of counter-insurgency activities against Maoist/Naxalite group" and ordered to disarm and disband over 6500 SPOs that the Chhattisgarh state has formed. The bench said "the appointment of tribal youth as SPOs, who are barely literate, for temporary periods, and armed with firearms, had endangered and will necessarily endanger the human rights of others in society". The Supreme Court also ordered to recall all kinds of firearms and accessories that have given to these forces by the government. In addition, the bench also mentioned "the measures to be taken by the State of Chhattisgarh shall include, but not be limited to, investigation of all previously inappropriately or incompletely investigated instances of alleged criminal activities of Salwa Judum, or those popularly known as Koya Commandos". This directive of the Supreme Court must be observed in all other six states - Andhra, Orissa, Maharashtra, Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar - where the center and state governments have reared and funded SPOs under various names, such as Harmad Vahini, Shanti Sena, Sunlight Sena, Tritiya Prastuti Committee, Narsi Cobra etc. to carry out deadly operations against the people fighting for their land and livelihood.


This is not the first time that the Supreme Court had ordered the disbanding of these illegal vigilante gangs. In 2010 too, the Supreme Court had ordered the Salwa Judum to be disbanded, and Chhattisgarh Government was forced to accept the judgment on papers. However, the state every time had tried to justify the appointment of these forces. Although they declared an official end to Salwa Judum in December 2010, the forces were not disbanded and they were retained under the new name 'Koya Commandos'. In March 2011, these Koya Commandos made a deadly attack on the villages of Timapur, Morapally and Tadmetla villages killing three people, raping four women and burning more than three hundred houses. They forcefully stopped relief material from reaching these places for several days after the incident. Government relief teams, social activists, fact finding teams and reporters were stopped from reaching the affected villages. The people who led this attack were all identified Salwa Judum leaders. The Salwa Judum had a notorious history from its inception in 2004, burning down more than 700 adivasi villages in the past and displacing more than 3,50,000 people from their land and villages. People were forced to leave their houses and fields and herded in camps. This ruthless notorious vigilante gang has done numerous rapes, murders, poisoned water bodies, burnt down houses, granaries and live stocks.


The Salwa judum is sponsored by MNCs like Tata and Essar who have a vested interest in grabbing the mineral resources of Chhattisgarh. The state and Central government in active collaboration with the MNCs promoted these vigilante gangs and have dodged earlier orders from the apex court to disband them. There has been worldwide criticism and condemnation of these illegal and brutal gangs reared by the state against the people. The central and state governments in various states must now disband these notorious forces in compliance with the Supreme Court order.