Salwa Judum began as a ‘peace’ movement in 2005 to counter Naxalites in Chhattisgarh. The move was initiated by Chhattisgarh government by arming civilians to participate in the armed operations. As is natural, the armed civilians unleashed a reign of terror on people by arbitrary engagements and the breakdown of ‘rule of law’. With the active support of Chhattisgarh government, there was a large scale displacement of tribals, mass killings, rapes and other human rights violations. In addition to allegations of murder (500 cases) and arson (103 cases), 99 allegations of rape were submitted to the Supreme Court, with no single FIR (Firstpost report dated 30 May, 2013).
Later, what came to be accepted as a landmark judgment in 2011 is commonly known as the Salwa Judum case. The Honorable Supreme Court completely ruled out any such formation and declared the so called peace movement to be illegal and unconstitutional. The court held that the state actions amounted to “an abdication of constitutional responsibilities” and that it represented “an extreme form of transgression of constitutional boundaries”.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has a somewhat similar course by having armed civilians in some parts of Jammu province. According to a Greater Kashmir report dated December 25, 2015, the Village Defence Committee members have committed crimes including murder, abduction, rape, theft, rioting, domestic violence and 196 cases stand registered against them. The actions of such militia may have drawn some attention in the recent past, but they are not new. They have been a means of harassing minorities everywhere and a prime source of communal tension in such areas as well.
When asked about the disarming of VDCs, Dr. Nirmal Singh while denying any such action was quoted as saying that asking for disarming of VDC was similar to asking for disarming of police for committing a crime. Well, the relation Dr. Singh has drawn is irrational and unfounded from the face of it. If anyone from the police has committed a crime in the past, have the general masses ever asked for the disarming of whole police? No?
The case of VDCs is a questioning one. You arm a civilian, illiterate, most of the times, living in a far-flung village and expect him to deliver peace for you. Absolutely bizarre. If there is any such need, why don’t you recruit more soldiers or relocate some from the 700000 already present in Kashmir. 700000 aren’t heavy? Besides this if the state government is supporting such militia, who is responsible for their actions?