Is Orissa creating militia to fight Maoists?

November 1st, 2008 - 3:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Nov 1 (IANS) Human rights activists have reacted strongly to the Orissa government’s move to recruit tribal youths to fight Maoists, alleging it is trying to replicate the controversial Salwa Judum civil militia of Chhattisgarh.The government on Oct 24 put up a notification for the appointment 2,000 tribal youth in the age group 18-25 as special police officers (SPO) in five Maoist-hit tribal districts - Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati, Raygada and Kandhamal.

On Saturday, the government said the tribal youths would be trained and used on various duties that average policeman do.

However, human right activists say the government is trying to create its own Salwa Judum - an anti-Maoist movement started in Chhattisgarh in 2005 - that has invited much criticism.

“The move is intended to provide employment to tribal youths and expand the police intelligence network,” a police official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

“The government has not decided yet if the tribal youths would be given arms,” he said.

However, human rights activist and lawyer Biswapriya Kanungo said: “The government is trying to create a second edition of the Salwa Judum in India which will not only create civil war but also lead to more trouble in the tribal belt.”

“A step like this is an admission that the situation is very bad in the tribal belt. Instead of finding out the root cause of the problems, the government is trying to pit tribals against their own people,” Kanungo told IANS.

“If the government wants to provide jobs to tribals there are other areas where it can appoint them. It seems the government does not want to solve their problems,” he said.

Human right groups have been opposing the creation of Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh. The Supreme Court in March had disapproved the formation of the civil militia. Since its inception, over 50,000 villagers have been displaced from their homes and deprived of their source of livelihood. Large parts of Chhattisgarh are in a state of civil war.

According to the Orissa government notification, those recruited would be appointed on a contractual basis for the first three years. The youths need to pass at least Class 8. The government will provide them training in arms and ammunition the way it does for policemen.

According official sources, a special police officer would get a consolidated honorarium of Rs.4,000 per month in the first two years and Rs.4,500 in the third year.

The government may absorb them as constables in the police force on the basis of their performance.

Increasing Maoist-related violence over the past few years has become a major cause of concern for the government with officials expressing helplessness in tackling the situation.

According to official sources, the Communist Party of India-Maoist has influence in at least eight of the state’s 30 districts. They are Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Gajapati, Sambalpur, Deogarh, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj.

Another group, the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (Jana Shakti), a left wing extremist outfit, has made its presence felt in the mineral rich tri-junction areas of three districts, Keonjhar, Jajpur and Dhenkanal.

Fifteen out of 30 districts of the state have been affected by Maoist violence to some degree, the government said.

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