Chhattisgarh's affidavit "beautifully vague." What has Centre done to restore normality?

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Chhattisgarh government why an independent probe should not be ordered into the burning of 300 tribal houses in Dantewada district and again questioned the procedure followed in the appointment of Koya commandos to fight the Maoists.

“It is not enough to appoint someone and train him in using weapons,” the Bench said. Are they being trained in policing and how to deal with people? Do they understand the law? Do they know what is self-defence, the judges asked.

A Bench of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar, hearing petitions filed by social anthropologist Nandini Sundar and others, expressed dissatisfaction with the affidavit filed by the State government on the steps taken after the incident. Justice Reddy observed, “The affidavit is beautifully vague.”

He pointed out that the State had 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 attempting to visit the villages in Dantewada where tribal dwellings had been destroyed. He asked State counsel why the investigation into the incident should not be handed over to some independent agency.

Justice Reddy also questioned the role of the Centre, saying: “You do nothing in the matter...Whether it is Maoist or anti-Maoist you are responsible for it. After all it is your duty to ensure that the governance is carried on by the State in accordance with the Constitution. We have come to know that 80 per cent of the funds for the SPOs come from the Centre.”

When Additional Solicitor-General Harin Raval, appearing for the Centre, said “The first concern of the government was to restore normalcy in the State,” the judge asked: “What steps have you [Centre] taken to restore normalcy.”

Denies allegations

In its affidavit, Chhattisgarh denied Swami Agnivesh's allegations and said “the Salwa Judum movement ran its course and has ceased as a force and exists only symbolically.”

On the appointment of Koya commandos, the affidavit said “no one has been appointed Koya commando. Though the origin of the Koya community is still unknown, they are said to be members of the Gond community of the Dravidian family. Some of the SPOs are from Koya tribe and hence they are loosely termed Koya commandos.” The State also said that necessary relief measures had been provided to the affected people.

Senior counsel Ashok Desai, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that the court should give a direction to the State to allow NGOs who wanted to distribute relief materials to the victims to do so unhindered.

When counsel for Chhattisgarh sought time to take instructions, Justice Reddy made it clear that the State should answer two aspects — burning of tribal houses and procedure of the appointment and arming of Koya commandos — on the next date of hearing on April 21.

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