Profession: An activist for the cause of Adivasis caught in the anti-naxal operations in Chhattisgarh; Head of the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics; was previously Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Education: M.A., M.Phil & Ph.D in Anthropology, Columbia University, New York. B.A. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Oxford University
Interests: Reading, walking
What do you think would be the repercussions of the Supreme Court order which has banned the use of Special Police Officers in anti-naxal operations? How would it change things on ground in Chhattisgarh?
It will change things on ground only if the Chhattisgarh government is sincere about implementing it. But from the initial reactions, I don’t think they are serious about addressing the issue and in fact they are doing what they have always done, which is to refuse to follow the court’s orders. In 2008, the court directed them to compensate people affected by the (Salwa Judum orchestrated) violence, ensure that people can return home, ensure that there is a list of missing people and file FIRs, but they have done nothing. If you read their affidavits over the years, their only defense has been that all these people are naxalite supporters. They have displayed complete contempt for the court. I am afraid that they will try and do that again. They now say they will file a review petition.
What sort of a role do you think the centre could play in the wake of the judgment?
There is a close overlap between the central government’s home ministry and the Chhattisgarh establishment. Sometimes I feel the home ministry in the centre is an extension of the BJP rather than being run by the Congress government in terms of the way in which it has consistently supported the Chhattisgarh government in all its violations, even when it has been to the detriment of the Congress in Chhattisgarh. The fact is that this whole policy of Salwa Judum was a joint policy of the centre and the state and so the home ministry has defended this policy. I think it is going to be difficult to admit that this is wrong. From my understanding, the judgment is being welcomed by the public and it is the security establishment which is upset about it.
How do you see the order being implemented?
They will have to implement the order; if not we will be filing contempt. They say they are going to file a review petition but that’s not going to be easy as they think. Right from the beginning, when matter was first heard, the courts have being saying that the government cannot arm civilians to fight insurgencies. It’s not just this judge; it is the view of the Supreme Court as a whole…They seem too understand instantly that you cannot arm one section of the society to fight another. This is exactly what they are doing in Chhatttisgarh, it is entirely up to the Station House Officer to appoint Special Police Officers. There are no regulations or background checks in these appointments.
How difficult would it be to disarm the Salwa Judum?
The process will not be easy because they have al these people who are used to lording over the areas, have become local contractors and have become used to the power of the gun. But they do have to be disarmed. When the collector and commissioner was trying to get relief to Tadimetla, Dimapur and Modpalli villages, after they came under attack, they were not allowed to go by the SPOs. Swami Agnivesh was also attacked by the SPOs. This is crazy because they have become complete law into themselves which cannot be allowed.
Will the recent rise of the civil rights movements, such as that of Anna Hazare, lead to activists taking up the cause of Adivasis also getting more elbow room with the government?