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Chhattisgarh activists up against Salwa Judum atrocities


Sreelatha Menon  |  New Delhi 

Salwa Judum, the private militia which was armed and maintained by the Chhattisgarh government, is finally finding some serious opposition.
While two cases of public interest litigation are already there in the Supreme Court, a collective of activists from various organisations called the Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh have now decided to take the matter of Salwa Judum and their reported atrocities against tribals to President Pratibha Patil and to Congress President Sonia Gandhi this week.
The movement is also getting together MPs to organise a visit by a Parliamentary team to Chhattisgarh to assess the facts. They are also activating tribal MPs on the issue of Salwa Judum.
Villagers are living in fear and hiding in villages and forests in Dantewada and Bijapur districts though the national media is strangely silent about the almost daily catastrophe the tribals are going through, says Vani Xaxa an activist of the Campaign for Peace and Justice and Chhattisgarh.
Manish Kunjam an ex-MLA of the CPI from Dantewada and historian Ramchandra Guha and scholar Nandini Sundar also an activist in the Campaign have already filed between them two public interest litigation against the state government for suspending human rights in tribal areas and for withdrawing and disarming the Salwa Judum.
"The court has asked the government for a response. That is our only hope now," says Sundar. Former chief minister Ajit Jogi says the only solution is the end of the Salwa Judum.
But he doesn't know how this can be done. He is a member of the Congress Working Committee of a party which is heading the UPA coalition at the Centre. He says he is helpless and he did try to speak to the Home Minister to stop the Salwa Judum but failed to get much success.
Former Dantewada Collector BD Sharma says the governor himself has powers under the Fifth Schedule to change any laws or intervene in tribal areas when he sees the safety of the people endangered. But since independence, not a single governor has used these powers.
Sharma wants a Parliamentary delegation to visit Dantewada. He says Jogi is not so helpless. He can raise the issue in Parliament and not budge till a delegation is sent to Chhattisgarh.
"What is stopping him?" he asks. While there is a silence on the situation in Chhattisgarh, a convention organised by Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh had a huge response in Delhi this week. The campaign is ready with an action plan on Chhattisgarh and against Salwa Judum forces.
The tribal leaders from Dantewada, including former Salwa Judum members, a ward panchayat member and a former MLA have set up base in Delhi to chalk out a plan with these activists.
Says Lingoo Markam, a ward panchayat member from Dantewada now operating from Delhi, "There is finally hope. I have got used to seeing all cases of killings go unpunished. It is as if anyone can kill and get away. Not a single complaint I tried filing on killings and rape by Salwa Judum ever got registered in the police stations. It is a total violation of democratic rights. I doubt if these exist at all.

First Published: Thu, September 06 2007. 00:00 IST