State cant arm people to fight Naxals: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday disapproved the idea of arming local people to counter the Maoists and sought an explanation from the Chhattisgarh Government for creating an anti-Naxal armed group of special police officers — Koya Commandos.

"What is this Koya Commandos? How are they appointed and how are they given training etc? It is very dangerous.., giving them arms to fight," a bench comprising justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar said.

The bench directed the state government to file an affidavit on the raising of Koya Commandos and also state under what rule they were being supplied arms and ammunition.

It posted the matter for further hearing on April 15.

"The affidavit will tell under which rule the Koya Commandos are appointed and under which rule they are given arms and ammunition? We must know it," the bench said, while making it clear that the affidavit has to be filed by a senior officer.

The special police officers have been given the name Koya Commandos after a tribe in the Dantewada region.

It was not for the first time that the apex court has expressed its concern over the creation of armed anti-Naxalite group. In February 2009 also it had questioned how the government could arm common people or those associated with Salwa Judum, a people`s movement to combat the Maoists in Chhatisgarh.

The court had said the state should not arm common people and encourage them to fight Naxalites as "it will create a dangerous situation".

However, the Chhattisgarh Government has maintained that Salwa Judum was a dying movement and it was not giving any encouragement to it.

The court passed the order while hearing a petition against the existence of Salwa Judum in Naxal-infested regions of the state to fight the Maoists.

The petition had been filed by sociologist Nandini Sundar, historian Ramchandra Guha, former bureaucrat E A S Sarma and others seeking a direction to the state government to refrain from allegedly supporting Salwa Judum.

During the hearing, Swami Agnivesh informed the court about last month`s incident when he was attacked by a group of people — allegedly consisting of SPOs and Salwa Judum volunteers– when he was visiting a Naxal region near Dantewada with activists of the Art of Living of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

The Chhattisgarh government informed the bench that it has already ordered an inquiry by the district and sessions judge, Bastar, into the incident and the notification in this regard was issued yesterday.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the state government, however, sought liberty from the court to persuade Chief Minister Raman Singh to order an inquiry by a Chhattisgarh High Court judge.

Salve said this was necessary considering the sensitivity of the incident and because of the different versions about it.

"Notwithstanding any advice he (the Chief Minister) may be getting, I will ask him to consider appointing a High Court judge for holding inquiry into the incident," Salve along with advocate Atul Jha said, adding that it was required as the conflicting versions were coming out in media about the incident as the society was divided into pro and anti-Maoist groups.

They alleged that the police has recorded the speech of Agnivesh which was "pro-Maoist."

"We don`t go by media reports," the bench said, asking the state government to file an affidavit.

Earlier, advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan placed an affidavit on behalf of Agnivesh and said Salwa Judum was still active and the Chief Minister was indulging in double speak as no FIR has been lodged against any of its members as per the recommendation of the NHRC.

The advocate said the state government should also consider the report of Harsh Mander, who has been appointed as Commissioner on Food Security by the apex court to visit the villages of Tadmetla, Morapalli and Timapuram in Chhattisgarh where food scarcity and hunger deaths were reported.

It was during the visit to these villages Agnivesh was allegedly attacked by some people whom he claimed were members of Salwa Judum and special police officers.

He had visited the villages after reports appeared that several houses were destroyed and some women were allegedly raped by the security forces.

The apex court has been monitoring the steps taken by the state government to disband Salwa Judum and also the measures taken by it for the relief and rehabilitation of the tribals who are caught in the crossfire between the Maoists and the security forces.

It has also asked the authorities to free schools and ashrams from the occupation of the security forces.