Salwa Judum: SPOs funding under SC scanner
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Last Updated: Monday, April 18, 2011, 21:46
New Delhi: The role of the Centre in the creation and funding of anti-Naxal armed group of special police officers (SPOs) to fight Maoists on Monday came under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court which said several serious issues arises from their existence.

"What is the role of the Centre? We have come to know that 80 per cent of the funds for the SPOs come from the Centre," a bench comprising justices B Sudershan Reddy and SS Nijjar said.

It also expressed anguish that Chhattisgarh government has not responded properly on the action taken by it on the complaint of social activist Swami Agnivesh who was attacked last month by a group of people, allegedly consisting of SPOs and Salwa Judum volunteers, when he was visiting a Naxal-hit region near Dantewada with activists of the Art of Living of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

The bench wanted to know from the state government why the investigation into the incident be not handed over to some independent agency.

"Swamy Agnivesh has raised a very serious issue in his affidavit. What is the fate of the FIR, nobody knows. Why not an independent investigation be ordered, at least regarding two villages where 300 houses were burnt and two women were criminally assaulted and raped"? the bench said.

The court was hearing a petition against the existence of Salwa Judum in Naxal-affected regions of the state to fight the Maoists.

The petition has been filed by sociologist Nandini Sundar, historian Ramchandra Guha, former bureaucrat EAS Sarma and others seeking a direction to the state government to refrain from supporting Salwa Judum.

While speaking on the issue of SPOs, the bench said the state has to ensure that governance is in accordance with the Constitution.

"How can state allow the villagers to be armed"? the bench said.

Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval said the first concern of the government was to restore normalcy in the Naxal-hit area of Chhattisgarh.

The bench also expressed its displeasure against Chhattisgarh government for its "vague" affidavit on the raising of the SPOs to combat the Naxalites.

"The affidavit is vague," the bench said referring to its affidavit filed in response to its April 6 order in which it had sought an explanation from the Chhattisgarh government for creating SPOs under the name of Koya Commandos.

The state government in its affidavit had said "the SPO's are paid a monthly honourarium of Rs 3,000, out of which 80 percent is being contributed by the Centre and 20 per cent by the state government".

Chhattisgarh government submitted the number of SPO's to be appointed in each Naxalite-affected state is fixed by the Centre.

Further, it said Naxals and their supporters are against the SPO's because they feel the familiarity of SPO's with the local people, dialect and terrain work against them.

"The Naxals and their sympathizers also feel that had the SPO's not been appointed by the state, perhaps, they would have been recruited by the Naxals for their own benefit," the affidavit said.

However, the bench said several serious and dangerous questions arises on the issue of SPOs.

"Under what rule they are appointed? What are the training method for them? Do they know or are trained in policing? What type of training you have imparted them? The whole thing raises a very very serious issue," the bench said.

Identical questions were asked by the bench during its earlier hearing.

"What is this Koya Commandos? How are they appointed and how are they given training etc? It is very dangerous.., giving them arms to fight," the bench had said.

The bench directed the state government to file an affidavit on the raising of Koya Commandos and also state under what rule they were being supplied arms and ammunition.

The special police officers have been given the name Koya Commandos after a tribe in the Dantewada region.

In February 2009 also, the court had questioned how the government could arm common people or those associated with Salwa Judum to combat the Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

The court had said the state should not arm common people and encourage them to fight Naxalites as "it will create a dangerous situation".

However, the Chhattisgarh government has maintained that Salwa Judum was a dying "movement" and it was not giving any encouragement to it.

The Chhattisgarh government had informed the bench that it has already ordered an inquiry by the district and sessions judge, Bastar, into the incident involving Agnivesh and the notification in this regard was issued.

Chhattisgarh government had alleged that the police has recorded the speech of Agnivesh which was "pro-Maoist."

The apex court has been monitoring the steps taken by the state government to disband Salwa Judum and also the measures taken by it for the relief and rehabilitation of the tribals who are caught in the crossfire between Maoists and security forces.

It has also asked the authorities to free schools and ashrams from the occupation of the security forces.


First Published: Monday, April 18, 2011, 21:46

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