ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Tragedy of Chhattisgarh

Your editorial “Stifling of Democracy in Chhattisgarh” (13 June 2009) fails to capture the current situation there adequately. To say that “(the) PUCL and a few independent journalists have been the lone voices honestly reporting on this grim state of affairs” is to miss the point. By now there is a substantial body of evidence to indict the Salwa Judum, including factfinding reports by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, the international non-governmental organisation (NGO) Human Rights Watch, as well as several independent groups like the Human Rights Forum, the Independent Citizens Initiative, and most recently, a fact-finding report by a group of women lawyers and professionals which documented testimonies of rape and sexual slavery in camps. The Administrative Reforms Commission under Veerappa Moily and an expert committee on Naxalism constituted by the Planning Commission have also come out against the Salwa Judum.

Most importantly, the Chhattisgarh gov - ernment has itself admitted before the Supreme Court, in two public interest litigations (PILs) filed against the Salwa Judum by myself and others that the Salwa Judum and security forces have caused extensive damages. A letter dated 17 October 2008, from the Chhattisgarh government’s home secretary to the collectors of Dantewada and Bijapur, in response to the court’s orders to implement the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission, asks that: “Necessary relief money be given in cases of properties damaged by Salwa Judum activists/security forces, besides naxalite violence, after village-wise analysis”. It also talks of the need to prepare a rehabilitation plan and orders that security forces be moved out of schools. It is another matter that this and other such letters were obviously not meant for implementation but simply to hoodwink the court, since as of date, a full nine months after it was written, no such village-wise analysis of damages has taken place and no compensation or rehabilitation plan drawn up.

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