Naxalites killing more civilians, State government recruiting child soldiers
New Delhi : Asian Centre for Human Rights in its report, “The Adivasis of Chhattisgarh: Victims of Naxalite Movement and Salwa Judum Campaign” released today stated that the poor Adivasis are the pawns of the conflict between the Naxalites and the state government and that they are also the perpetrators as well as the victims of the undeclared civil war. Members of the same family have been pitted against each other as some of them were forced to join the Naxalites in pursuance of their policy of recruiting one cadre from each family while the rest were forced to join Salwa Judum .
ACHR, which visited the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh and Bhadrachalam district of Andhra Pradesh from 3-6 March 2006, stated the situation has worsened after the Salwa Judum campaign was launched in June 2005. The Naxalites have been responsible for more killings of civilians and gross violations of international humanitarian laws. At least 138 Salwa Judum activists, most of whom are civilians, have been killed by the Naxalites between 5 June 2005 and 6 March 2006 . Survivors of the Darbhaguda massacre of 28 February 2006 told ACHR that the Naxalites killed many of the injured by stabbing and clubbing in clear violations of the Geneva Conventions.
Even the children of the Salwa Judum cadres were not spared. Swayam Mala , Ex-Sarpanch of Darbhaguda village told ACHR, “On the night of 23 February 2006 , Naxalites came to my residence searching for me on the accusations that I was initiating development projects in the village. Not finding me, they killed my son Swayam Kanna , who was studying in class eight.”
The direct involvement of the civilians in the conflict through the Salwa Judum campaign negates the State’s positive responsibility to protect the right to life. The Chhattisgarh government is increasing the risk of the civilians in the name of countering the Naxalites. In fact, there were security lapses which led to the killing and kidnapping of the injured by the Naxalites at Darbhaguda.
The Salwa Judum is far from a peaceful campaign with hundreds of the cadres, 3200 in Dantewada alone, being given full military training as Special Police Officers (SPOs). The security forces and Salwa Judum activists have been responsible for gross violations of human rights including torture, killings and rape especially during joint operations to forcibly bring scattered villages under the Salwa Judum .
“At international level, the government of India advocates the ban on recruitment and use of child soldiers in hostilities and often the security officials rightly highlight the use of child soldiers by the Naxalites. But ACHR team found that children are being recruited as SPOs with the blessings of none other than Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh . This must stop immediately.” – demanded Mr Suhas Chakma , Director of ACHR.
As on 4 March 2006 , a total of 45,958 Adivasi villagers from 644 villages in 6 blocks of Dantewada district have been displaced under Salwa Judum programme. The camp conditions are sub-human. Majority of the huts are roofed with the leaves of trees. There are no provisions except for a square meals with watery dal . “The claims of the District Magistrate that they are providing all facilities are a pack of lies” – stated Mr Chakma .
There are also no educational facilities in the camps. The Government Higher Secondary School at Konta, Girls High School , Janpad Middle School , Girls Ashram and Boys Ashram at Dondra have been converted into relief camps. Students who have been appearing for the Board Examinations in March 2006 have been badly affected.
Many of the surrendered Naxalites have been detained in chains in the camps and they do not have the right to freedom of movement.
The fact that many joined the Salwa Judum campaign for recruitment and regularisation into Chhattisgarh State Police Force speaks of the need for economic upliftment of the Adivasis. The Naxalite movement finds support among the Adivasis because of the systematic displacement, dispossession and violations of their rights. These problems cannot be addressed by more violations of their rights. The Salwa Judum campaign further deteriorates the conditions of the Adivasis which the Naxalites exploit in the first place.
“The central Government of India must intervene with the Chhattisgarh government to stop the “Salwa Judum” campaign and ensure that civilians are not involved in the conflict with the armed opposition groups and that no counter-insurgency or security measure be taken which increases the risks of the civilians” – stated Mr Chakma.
The conflict in Chhattisgarh has claimed the lives of as many as 227 persons i.e. 47 security personnel, 30 alleged Maoists, 138 civilians at the hands of the Maoists and 12 civilians at the hands of security forces and Salwa Judum activists between 5 June 2005 and 6 March 2006 . ACHR calls upon the Naxalites and the Chhattisgarh government to immediately declare cease-fire to facilitate holding of talks, dismantling of all the temporary camps and ensure return of the camp inmates to their respective villages with full safety and security.
ACHR also urged the Chhattisgarh government to immediately order a judicial inquiry into the recruitment and use of child soldiers in hostilities as SPOs, release all the surrendered Naxalites from their detention, vacate the schools which have been turned into relief camps, register the crimes perpetrated by the security forces, Salwa Judum cadres and the Maoists and bring the culprits to justice; and withdraw Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Bill, 2005.
ACHR urged the Maoists to stop attacking the civilians, indiscriminate use of land mines, the recruitment and use of children in hostilities and an immediate ban on Bal Mandal , Children’s Division.