Naxals killed 700 tribals in 5 years, Chattisgarh tells SC

Chattisgarh govt has told the SC that it would not be possible to shift villagers from relief camps within a definite timeframe due to possible reprisals from Naxalites who killed 700 tribals in the past five years.

Updated: Feb 24, 2011, 21:23 PM IST

New Delhi: Chattisgarh government has told
the Supreme Court that it would not be possible to shift
villagers from relief camps within a definite timeframe due
to possible reprisals from Naxalites who killed 700 tribals in
the past five years.

In an affidavit submitted through counsel Atul Jha, the
state government however, said it was taking all steps to
gradually shift the villagers back to their villages from the
relief camps set up close to police stations in the worst
Maoist-hit Dantewada and Bijapur districts.

A bench of justices B Sudershan Reddy and SS Nijjar,
while taking on record the two affidavits filed by the state,
asked the petitioner Nandini Sundar, a civil liberties
activist, to file her response.

According to the state government, Naxalites were bent on
exterminating all those opposing their ideology or those
unwilling to join their outfits.

The state`s affidavit comes in the backdrop of the
January 18 apex court`s direction to wind up the relief camps
as civil rights groups alleged they are used to shelter armed
Salwa Judum (viglilante group) members and special police
officers trained by the government to tackle Naxalites.

The government, however, said it has taken steps to
vacate the educational institutions used by security personnel
within a definite timeframe and budgetary allocations had been
made for construction of adequate barracks for the personnel.

"Since 2005, the relief camps in Dantewada and Bijapur
have been attacked 34 times. In 2010 alone, these relief camps
have been attacked 9 times. In the last five years, more than
700 innocent tribals have been killed by Naxalites after being
branded as sympathiser of Salwa Judum or as police informers.

"It is submitted that in the prevailing security scenario
with the Naxalites determined to exterminate all those people
opposed to them or unwilling to join their cadre, it would not
be possible to force the remaining inmates of these camps to
leave immediately", the affidavit said.

The government said relief camps have been set up as part
of the constitutional obligation to provide safety to
villagers who had left their villages due to fear and
atrocities of Naxalites.

"There are many villagers staying in the camps who go to
their nearby villages during day time (to look after their
fields, collect forest produce etc) and return to the camp
for night stay due to fear of Naxalites. Then, there is a
category of villagers who have completely shifted to their
villages but keep frequenting the camps when Naxalite
activities around their villages increase.”

"Currently, 23 relief camps are functioning but the
number of villagers living in relief camps have substantially
come down. This is demonstrated by the fact that initially
there were reportedly around 60,000 villagers in various camps
spread out in both the districts. However, this number has
dwindled to about 25,000", the state said.

According to the affidavit, the villagers are encouraged
to go back to their village if they feel safe and secure.

To provide employment opportunity to those who have gone
back to their villages from relief camps, the government has
started livelihood programmes like training in mushroom
cultivation, metal art, scientific agriculture, carpentry, lac
production, incense-stick making and tailoring, besides
supplying essential commodities through PDS.

The state also cited a NHRC report which said
"disbanding relief and rehabilitation camps in the present
context means putting all those who are in the camps at the
mercy of the Naxalites".

"Some families, which were active participants in
Salwa Judum movement, and families of SPO`s said they cannot
go back to the villages as they are the prime targets and will
be killed if they go back", the affidavit added.