B. Sudershan Reddy, former Supreme Court judge and lead author of a 2011 verdict banning the Salwa Judum militia in Chhattisgarh, has said the Kerala government’s declaration to recruit tribal youths for a daily wage of Rs.500 to confront Maoists is unconstitutional and will lead to pitting one Adivasi against the other.
He was reacting to a recent announcement of Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan to recruit 100 tribespeople as Home Guards, paying them Rs.500 each to check the activities of Maoists in forests. The Minister had said the Maoists were using Adivasis as tools for their subversive activities and that this was a measure to seek their complete support. (‘Tribespeople to be recruited to counter Maoist threat’ The Hindu , November 5, 2013).
The Minister’s statement was made in the light of reported sightings of suspected Maoist cadres in forests adjoining tribal colonies.
“I am surprised that this announcement came from a welfare State like Kerala. This is exactly what the Supreme Court had warned against in the 2011 judgment. This is also exactly how the Salwa Judum began. The declaration is illegal, unconstitutional, and unacceptable from a democratically elected government,” Mr. Reddy told The Hindu on Tuesday over the phone.
He said the Minister’s statement amounted to “pitting one Adivasi against the other and violating the right to life of both of them.”
His statement comes at a time when Adivasi leaders and organisations on November 10 sought an inquiry by a Central agency into the details of the anti-Maoist crackdown. They said the State had already spent Rs.11 crore to fight Maoists.
“Whatever be the nomenclature used — Home Guards, jawans, Salwa Judum, whatsoever —, this announcement means using ill-equipped, ill-trained tribal youths to check Maoist incursions. You are putting the lives of these young tribal people at risk by asking them to report on Maoists, who are well trained and carry sophisticated weapons. It is unconstitutional. It is also the government recruiting a private army,” Mr. Reddy said.
Justice Reddy’s Bench, on July 5, 2011, in a judgment on a writ petition, Nandini Sundar and Others versus State of Chhattisgarh, had ordered disbanding of the Salwa Judum, started in 2006 in Naxalite/Maoist regions of that State.
The Bench had termed unconstitutional the Chhattisgarh government’s policy to arm tribal youth as “force multipliers” to check on Maoist movements, even calling it “muscular and violent statecraft.”
“Tax breaks for the rich and guns for youngsters amongst the poor, so that they keep fighting amongst themselves, seem to be the new mantra from the mandarins of security and high economic policy of the State. This, apparently, is to be the grand vision for the development of a nation that has constituted itself as a sovereign, secular, socialist, and democratic republic,” Mr. Reddy wrote in the judgment co-authored with Justice S.S. Nijjar.
The July 2011 judgment had ordered the “Union of India to cease and desist, forthwith, from using any of its funds in supporting, directly or indirectly the recruitment of Special Police Officers for the purposes of engaging in any form of counter-insurgency activities against Maoist/Naxalite groups.”
Asked if the State Home Department’s announcement would amount to contempt of the apex court judgment, Mr. Reddy clarified: “Strictly it may not attract contempt of court as the Supreme Court later clarified that the judgment confined only to Chhattisgarh. But the announcement violates the spirit of constitutionality of the Supreme Court verdict.”
‘Akin to government recruiting private army’ Says it will endanger lives of tribesmen
‘Akin to government recruiting
Says it will endanger lives of tribesmen