Court slams Chhattisgarh on issue of burning tribal houses (Lead)

April 18th, 2011 - 8:49 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday slammed the Chhattisgarh government, and asked why an independent probe should not be ordered into the burning of 300 tribal houses in Dantewada district and the procedure it follows for recruiting and arming the Koya Commandos - a unit of tribals fighting the Maoists.

An apex court bench of Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar said the fire incident was a matter of serious concern. The court also expressed its displeasure at the assault on social activist Swami Agnivesh when he visited Dantewada March 26 to meet the tribal victims.

The court’s anguish over the way the Chhattisgarh government was handling things in the Maoist-affected tribal areas found expression when it told Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal: “You do nothing. Union of India, do nothing. It is your responsibility that (the state) government is carried out in accordance with the constitution.”

The court described as “beautifully vague” the state government’s affidavit giving its version of the burning of 300 tribal houses in two villages in Dantewada March 11 and the steps that have been taken for giving the villagers relief.

The affidavit also stated the government’s position on Koya Commandos.

The court’s observation came in the course of the hearing of a petition by Delhi University professor Nandini Sunder, who sought direction to the Chhattisgarh government to rein in activists of the government-organised anti-Maoist group Salwa Judum, perpetuating violence on the tribals.

“How many (Koya Commandos) are being appointed and for what period? The mere training in use of arms was not sufficient. They need training in law and policing,” the bench said.

“Whatever nomenclature you may use, but (the way things are being done) we are disturbed,” it said.

The court chided the central government too, noting that it was bearing the major chunk of the financial burden of such activities of the state government. “You keep supplying 80 percent of the financial support,” it said.

At another point, the court asked as to why NGOs trying to give food and other relief material to the victims of arson were being denied access. “If some NGOs want to go and provide some assistance, why it should be objected (to),” it asked.

This issue was raised by counsel Ashok Desai, appearing for Nandini Sunder.

Asked by the court, counsel Atul Jha, appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, said that he needs to seek instructions from the state.

The court said that the next hearing would be on Thursday, when it will focus on two aspects - involving the burning of tribal houses and procedure of the appointment and arming of Koya Commandos. The court will also take up the assault on Swami Agnivesh.

Swami Agnivesh told the court that a smear campaign has been unleashed by the state government against him, describing him as a “Maoist”.

Though it was called a Maoist attack, the tribals of villages had alleged that security forces assaulted women, killed livestock and burnt houses over three-four days in March.

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