Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Naxal conflict in India : The Government's left hand does not know what the right hand does as justice remains as elusive as ever.

The Naxal conflict in India : The Government's left hand does not know what the right hand does as justice remains as elusive as ever.

The Naxal conflict in India:
Killings down, armament up

(Excerpts from the forthcoming issue of Vol –III of Naxal Conflict Monitor,
an initiative of Asian Centre for Human Rights)

I. Executive summary:

At least 165 persons have been killed in seven Naxal-affected states during the third quarter of 2006 i.e. July to September 2006, according to the estimates of Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR). These included 19 security forces, 70 civilians and 76 alleged Naxalites. The highest number of killings has been reported from Chattisgarh (94) followed by Andhra Pradesh (39), Jharkhand (10), Bihar (9), West Bengal (5) and Maharashtra (4) and Orissa (4).

While the number of killings was down during the third quarter in comparison to the killing of 235 persons during the first quarter and 225 persons during the second quarter, both the Naxalites and the security forces have been arming themselves. The recovery of 600 unloaded rockets, 275 unassembled rockets, 27 rocket launchers, 70 gelatine sticks and other explosive materials from Mahbubnagar and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh on 8 September 2006 is a clear indication.

The Central government and various State governments too have been busy arming the security forces without undertaking effective development programmes. The Centre is raising a special combat force of 14,000 personnel drawn from the Central paramilitary forces, State police, and ex-servicemen from the Naxalite-affected states to counter the Naxalites. The personnel are reportedly currently undergoing training in specialized camps set up by the Army in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. This is in addition to over 30 battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force deployed for anti-naxal operations. The Naxal-affected states have asked for 100 ready-to-fight Central paramilitary battalions totalling over 100,000 personnel to combat the Maoists. The Central government has assured the Naxal-affected states of providing choppers to fight the Naxalites. As the conflict intensifies, human rights violations continue to increase.

II. Violations by the security forces:

During July - September 2006, the security forces killed at least 76 alleged Naxalites. Out of them, 37 alleged Naxalites were killed in Chattisgarh, 25 in Andhra Pradesh, 7 in Jharkhand, 4 in Orissa and 3 in Maharashtra. All the killings have been dubbed as “encounter killings”. In the past, many such encounter killings have been found to be outright extrajudicial executions.

On 23 July 2006, 8 Maoist rebels, including State committee Secretary Madhav alias Gurra Chennaiah, were shot dead by Andhra Pradesh police in an alleged encounter in the Nallamala forests in Prakasam district. Renowned left-wing poet, Gadar alleged that it was a fake encounter. The Telugu Desam Party also sought an enquiry by a “competent agency”. However the state Home Minister K. Jana Reddy rejected the demand for a judicial probe into the Nallamala encounter on the ground that a magisterial inquiry was already on. Following a petition from the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, the Andhra Pradesh High Court asked the state government to conduct the post mortem of the deceased at Guntur Medical College under supervision of a team of forensic experts and videograph the entire proceedings.

III. Violations by the Naxalites:

The Naxalites too have been responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian laws. During July – September 2006, the Naxalites have killed a total of 86 persons, including 19 security personnel and 67 civilians.

Innocent civilians have been targeted by the Naxalites. In a pre-dawn strike on 17 July 2006, hundreds of armed Maoists attacked the Salwa Judum relief camp at Errobore village in Dantewada district in Chattisgarh and killed 31 inmates on the spot, incuding an infant and a 6-year-old girl and injured 21 others. They torched the relief camp which housed about 4,000 displaced tribals and abducted 41 tribal inmates, including 32 women from the relief camp. On 18 July 2006, six abducted tribals were killed in custody of the Naxalites in most brutal way.

Many political leaders have been killed by the Naxalites including Telegu Desam Party leader, T Nageswar Rao who was killed in Ongole in Prakasam district on 1 July 2006, a Congress worker, Kotla Nageswar Reddy who was killed at Gangavaram village in Prakasam district on 10 July 2006 and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) district committee leader and advocate Rupu Reddy Ravinder Reddy who was shot dead allegedly by Naxalites at Gandhamapalli village under the Bayyaram police station limits in Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh on 31 July 2006. In West Midnapore district of West Bengal, two CPM leaders – Chhoti Mahato (53) and Anil Mahato (45) were killed by alleged Naxalites on 2 July 2006 and 19 September 2006 respectively.

The Naxalites continue to deliver Kangaroo justice. On 3 July 2006, Maoists shot dead Congress leader Chhannu Ram Bhatti, who was also a member of the Salwa Judum campaign, in the presence of more than 500 tribals following a mock trial at Maoists' “jan adalat” at Nilwaya village under Kante Kalyan police station in Dantewara district in Chhattisgarh. The Maoists reportedly read out a chargesheet against Bhatti in full public view and held him guilty of working against the Maoists and pronounced the death sentence.

Surrendered Naxalites too have been targeted on the charges of being “police informers”. On 12 July 2006, a former Maoist identified as Nimmala Durgaiah was killed by the Maoists on the suspicion of being a police informer at Kalvapalli village in Tadwai mandal under Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. The Maoists reportedly approached Durgaiah, who had a grocery shop, with a list of grocery items and told him to bring them to the forest. He was tortured and shot dead in the forest. On 2 September 2006, a surrendered naxalite identified as Chimala Bakkaraju, 45, was dragged from his house and shot dead by suspected members of the CPI -ML Prajapratighatana at Pagideru village in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh on the charges of being a “police informer”.

IV. No vision:

Undoubtedly, the Naxalite problem is intensifying. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Naxal violence is being reported from 1427 police stations in 2006 in comparison to 509 police stations in 2005. At least 102 security personnel were killed in Naxal attacks during January - July 2006 against the killing of 85 security personnel by the armed opposition groups in Jammu and Kashmir during the same period.

The Centre claims that it has devised a three-pronged strategy to counter the growing Naxal violence - strengthening of intelligence system at the state level, sustained intelligence driven police action and accelerate development in Naxal-affected areas.

The Draft Approach Paper to the 11th Five Year Plan titled “Towards Faster and More Inclusive Growth” of the Planning Commission of India states, “Backward districts of otherwise well performing states present a dismal picture of intra-state imbalance and neglect. …. We cannot let large parts of the country be trapped in a prison of discontent, injustice and frustration that will only breed extremism. The spread of Naxalism in more than 100 districts in the country is a warning sign.”

The Draft Approach Paper suggests that – “Special efforts must be made to remove the discontent, dispense justice, instill a sense of fairness among the people and give them dignity and hope”.

The revised draft National Tribal Policy stated that violent manifestations “should not be viewed as merely law and order problems to be tackled through policing, or by arming the tribals to fight these events as is being done in certain areas.”

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs stated, “The solution lies in giving rights to the Scheduled Tribes communities over natural and financial resources and addressing the issue of economic deprivation in a prompt and time bound manner.”

There are few takers of such recommendations from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the Planning Commission of India. The left hand does not know what the right hand does as justice remains elusive.

Asian Center For Human Rights

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