People’s Union for Democratic Rights welcomes the recent judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in which it has struck down as ‘unconstitutional’ the practice of arming local tribal youth as special police officers (SPOs) in order to fight the Maoists. It has asked the state government to:
• immediately stop using SPOs,
• recall all firearms distributed to them,
• desist from funding the recruitment of any other vigilante groups,
• ensure the filing of FIRs into criminal activities committed by them, and
• offer protection to those who need
The judgement was delivered by Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy and Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar on the writ petition filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramchandra Guha, EAS Sarma and others (Writ Petition (Civil) No (S). 250 of 2007).
PUDR welcomes the judgment as it offers a very powerful critique of what it describes as a ‘bleak and miasmic world view propounded by the respondents’. The Court indicts the state for claiming that anyone who ‘questions the conditions of inhumanity that are rampant in many parts of that state ought to necessarily be treated as Maoists, or their sympathizers’. The order condemns the respondents for reiterating the need for ‘constitutional sanction, under our Constitution, to perpetrate its policies of ruthless violence against the people of Chhattisgarh to establish a Constitutional order.’ The judgment dismisses the manufactured consent that has been created to build public opinion on the state of lawlessness prevailing in Chhattisgarh. Instead, it asserts that ‘the problem rests in the amoral political economy that the state endorses, and the resultant revolutionary politics that it spawns.’ The root cause of the problem of violence, the judgment says, lies in the ‘culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by neo-liberal economic ideology’ which promotes ‘policies of rapid exploitation of resources by private sector without creditable commitments to equitable distribution of benefits.’
As the judgment makes clear through its trenchant critique, the entire miasmic worldview —built on the premise that ‘economic growth is our only path and that the costs borne by the poor and deprived, disproportionately, are necessary costs’—violates fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, particularly Articles 14 and 21 (equality before law and dignity of life). In a bid to contain dissatisfaction, the policy of the state to distribute guns instead of books among poor tribal youth only points to the further degeneration and dehumanization of the environment, the judgment notes.
PUDR believes that the situation in Chhattisgarh was never a law and order problem and was deliberately made into one by the ‘mandarins of high policies’ in order to protect and pursue anti-people economic policies. PUDR reiterates its belief in the judgment and hopes that the current policy of creating armed vigilante groups such as the Salwa Judum or Koya Commandos will cease immediately. PUDR applauds the efforts of the petitioners who have painstakingly gathered facts and presented them before the court since 2007.
Paramjeet Singh and Harish Dhawan