Bastar: Deceased Congress leader Mahendra Karma was supposedly the main target of the Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh, which killed 28 people. He was the architect of the now disbanded anti-Naxalite vigilante movement, Salwa Judum. CNN-IBN’s Rupashree Nanda had travelled to Bastar in 2008 to unravel the realities of the controversial force. Here’s the story:
Named after the Gondi term for purification rites, the Salwa Judum comprised of local villagers and put on the frontline of the government’s war against the Maoists. The government insisted the Salwa Judum is a spontaneous and homegrown movement.
The architect of the Salwa Judum, Mahendra Karma, the Congress MLA from Dantewada in South Chhattisgarh, had refused to answer any questions about the vigilante group he helped create. Asked about how many people are in camps, he had said, “I don’t know, I am not an accountant. Why do you want to ask questions only about the Salwa Judum? Shut down your camera and get out of here.”
An anti-Naxalite board greets all visitors to the relief camp at Dornapal. Puran used to be a farmer, but for three years, he has not ploughed any land. Salwa Judum was the result of a cosy handshake between the BJP Chief Minister Raman Singh and the opposition Congress, when both parties agreed, for once, on the tactic to use tribal against tribal. Puran had then left his village, Gorgunda, certain that the Maoists would be defeated in a month or two. But the months have stretched into years. Puran had said he fears he can never go back. “There is no way I can go back. The threat from Maoists is too immense,” he had said.
Walking along the lanes of the Judum camp, one heard a common story. People left their houses thinking that the Maoists will go back. But if anything their presence only grew stronger. What were meant to be temporary structures acquired colours of permanence.
“They killed my brother for nothing. He had just gone back to the village to look at his house. Why was he killed? There is no way that I can go back,” said Special Police Officer, Dornapal Camp. Across Bastar, the stories remained the same about Salwa Judum: that counter terror only led to more terror and that it wasn’t the job of the tribals to fight the Maoists.Courtesy:IBNLiva