Salwa Judum: SPOs funding under SC scanner

The role of the Centre in the creation and funding of anti-Naxal armed group of special police officers to fight Maoists came under the scrutiny of the SC which said several serious issues arises from their existence.

Updated: Apr 18, 2011, 21:46 PM IST

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

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.