From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Human Rights violations by security forces
The Indian government claims that it is winning the war against Maoist guerillas in India’s forested regions.
- It has dismissed accusations of human rights violations as propaganda by Maoists or their supporters.
- It has jailed human rights activists and lawyers working in these areas.
- A recent report by a government-appointed inquiry commission shows that these accusations are credible and need to be addressed.
- Seven-and-a-half years ago, 17 unarmed villagers, including six minors, were killed by security forces at Sarkeguda village in Chhattisgarh.
- The commission established that the CRPF and police version of events was false.
- It said that 15 of the villagers were killed at close quarters while fleeing in a ‘totally disproportionate and unwarranted use of force.”
- One man was killed in his home the next morning, while one succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
- The judge relied only on circumstantial evidence. The CRPF/police version was dismissed because the lawyers for the villagers picked holes in their claims.
- The defence charge on delay is completely unwarranted because the villagers spoke to the press.
- They did not file an FIR with the police. It shows their complete and justified lack of faith in the system.
- The police was involved in the firing and the government’s own affidavits in the Supreme Court in the ongoing Salwa Judum case have established that the police have never acted on complaints from villagers.
- The only point where the judge differs from the villagers is in arguing that the meeting that the villagers were attending was not an innocuous one to prepare for a seed-sowing festival because it was held at night and some people with ‘criminal antecedents’ were present.
- In an area where anyone can be arbitrarily accused and jailed, people with criminal antecedents are a dime a dozen.
- For the security forces, everybody is “hostile”.
Holes in the judgement
- Even after exposing the violations by security forces, the judge rewarded the perpetrators.
- He did not recommend any prosecutions, or compensation; only better training, better gadgets and better intelligence for the forces.
- There are issues such as the 2012 Sarkeguda massacre and the Tadmetla arson, murder and rape a year earlier, as well as the accompanying attack on Swami Agnivesh and Art of Living representatives.
Human rights violations
- High-level committees were appointed to look into releasing adivasi prisoners as well as examine the cases of journalists.
- There has been no progress on addressing the widespread human rights violations, deaths, rapes and arson caused by Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt, despite severe indictments by the National Human Rights Commission in 2008 as well as by the Supreme Court in 2011.
- In an internal closure report on Tadmetla, the CBI pointed to the larger systemic issues of deliberate obfuscation by the security forces to ensure impunity.
- These include not keeping records of personnel on particular operations or details of ammunition used, deliberately fudging evidence etc.,
- There have been several more cases of fake encounters, the most recent being of two villagers in the Munga jungle on November 5.
- The Supreme Court’s 2011 ban on the use of surrendered Naxalites in frontline counterinsurgency has also been ignored by governments.
- The Court has let this contempt pass without hearing for the last seven years.
- A ‘final hearing’ of the Salwa Judum case began in 2018, but one year on, there have been no dates for hearing.
- The Sarkeguda inquiry raised the callous killing of 17 innocent villagers.
- Announce a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which would catalogue and compensate for all deaths, and prosecute those responsible.
- Action against security personnel in Sarkeguda must be the start, but must not be allowed to become the end.