New Delhi: A group of activists on Tuesday claimed that the Salwa Judum movement is "making a comeback" in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, and alleged that it was being done to drive away the tribal people from their land.
Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan said, "Operation Green Hunt is making a comeback slowly and is a modified form of a low-intensity war. Salwa Judum is too making a comeback. Adivasis are officially made as SPOs (Special Police Officers) and killing the adivasis."
"The only intention is to grab their land to make them disappear and do it in a way that the world should not know about it," Bhushan said, addressing a news conference.
Salwa Judum was a militia mobilised and deployed as part of anti-insurgency operations in Chhattisgarh, aimed at countering the Naxal violence in the region. In 2011, the Supreme Court declared it as illegal and ordered its disbanding.
However, Bhushan said efforts are being made to make a similar front like Salwa Judum. The earlier movement was led by the late Mahendra Karma while the new one, called Vikas Sangharsh Samiti, is headed by his son Chhavindra.
He added that there were many cases of fake encounters, but the state lacked any proper redressal means.
"Guidelines laid by SC on encounters are not followed by judiciary there... After spending years and years as under-trails and upon acquittal they are not provided any compensation, their life is not rehabilitated, the police who is responsible for all this is not punished," he said.
Tribal activist Lingaram Kodopi claimed that the return of Salwa Judum is leading to fleeing of villages by the adivasis. "Almost half the villages in Bijapur district are deserted now," Kodopi said.
Tribal activist Soni Sori, who was also at the press conference, alleged that Bastar Range Inspector General SRP Kalluri was threatening her to leave the district. Earlier this month, Sori had also challenged her for allegedly calling her a "Maoist sympathiser".
She further alleged that the police was terrorising her and claimed that the incidents of people surrounding claiming to be Naxals have risen dramatically.
Sori also highlighted the case of a tribal woman who was picked up by the police in February 2008 "on a false pretext" of killing 23 policemen. She was acquitted by the court in March 2015, but suffered with multiple ailments resulting from alleged police torture.
"There are many, almost all the incidents where police provide very distorted version of events," she said, referring to the surrenders made by the Naxals.
"When we read the police version, and go to the village only to find out that entire episode is distorted. Whoever has surrendered is said that they will be provided with a gun," Sori said.
"The same person goes around villages and threatens villagers and sometimes even kills. (Bastar Range IG) Kalluri is behind us. But, we will not leave the struggle. The terror being spread by the state is to snatch away lands from the tribal. There are many issues apart from Naxal issue. For them, the Naxal issue is an excuse to snatch away the lands of tribals," Sori added.
Author Arundhati Roy demanded formation of a public tribunal to look into what all the alleged atrocities against tribal in Bastar.
Activist-lawyer Vrinda Grover claimed the number of under-trials languishing in the jails in the insurgency hit areas of Chhattisgarh was very high and the prisons were over-filled by 216 per cent than its capacity.
"Most of the under-trials are tribal. However, despite this, a study done by me revealed that the Jagdalpur courts have a conviction rate of 3 per cent and other places have conviction rate of 1 per cent," Grover said.