Monday, July 11

Statement SC order Dated 5.7.11 ON SALWA JUDUM/SPOs

We warmly welcome the order by Justice Reddy and Justice Nijjar
directing the State of Chhattisgarh to stop using SPOs incounterinsurgency operations, disarm them and stop supportingvigilante movements by any name, as well as the order to the Centredirecting it to cease from financially supporting SPOs to engage incounterinsurgency.Judging from the personal reactions we have had – from a huge varietyof people many of whom we do not even know – the order has been widelyhailed as a brilliant and landmark restatement of constitutionalvalues.  If the state is to be recognised as legitimate it must actlawfully and cannot sacrifice the law and Constitution for immediateexpediency.  As the judges have so movingly and beautifully written“the power of the people vested in any organ of the State, and itsagents, can only be used for promotion of constitutional values andvision.” However, judging by the reaction of the Home Ministry and theChhattisgarh government, as well as by their supporters in the media,this basic constitutional principle is being willfully ignored. Thissimply reinforces the point that the judgement makes about the way inwhich the respondents are undermining the Constitution and therebynational interests.  Instead of appreciating the wisdom of the Courtthey are talking about a review petition.Right from 2007 when the case was first heard before the Chief Justiceof the Supreme Court, the Court has consistently maintained that thestate cannot arm civilians. This has been the considered opinion ofnot simply Justices Reddy and Nijjar but also of Justice Balakrishnanand the other judges who have accompanied him on the bench, includingJustice Kapadia, and Justice Aftab Alam.That the SPOs and Salwa Judum have been engaged in horrific crimes isa matter of record. At the same time, the law must be allowed toaddress these crimes and the Maoists cannot take matters into theirown hands. The judgement also directs the State of Chhattisgarh to“investigate all previously inappropriately or incompletelyinvestigated instances of alleged criminal activities of Salwa Judum,or those popularly known as Koya Commandos, filing of appropriate FIRsand diligent prosecution.”The judgement is as much a lesson for the Maoists as for thegovernment, that when the Constitution does swing into action, it hasthe power of people’s aspirations behind it, and is a more powerfulweapon in their hands than the gun.  As the judges say, “the fightagainst Maoist/Naxalite violence cannot be conducted purely as a merelaw and order problem to be confronted by whatever means the State canmuster. The primordial problem lies deep within the socio-economicpolicies pursued by the State on a society that was alreadyendemically, and horrifically, suffering from gross inequalities.Consequently, the fight against Maoists/Naxalites is no less a fightfor moral, constitutional and legal authority over the minds andhearts of our people. Our constitution provides the gridlines withinwhich the State is to act, both to assert such authority, and also toinitiate, nurture and sustain such authority.”We therefore appeal to the Maoists to join the public in hailing thishistoric judgement and to desist from harming SPOs in any way. Theyshould be allowed to peacefully reintegrate into their villages. Wealso appeal to both the Maoists and the government to initiate peacetalks on the basis of justice and constitutional principles, sinceultimately that is the only way forward.

Nandini Sundar

Ramachandra Guha

EAS Sarma

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