A tribal leader with hold on CM

A tribal leader with hold on CM

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh shared a special relationship with Mahendra Karma, the tribal leader and founder of Salwa Judum, who was...

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh shared a special relationship with Mahendra Karma, the tribal leader and founder of Salwa Judum, who was killed in an ambush by Maoists at Darbha on Saturday.A On a personal level, Raman Singh has received praise for his organisational abilities, as reflected in his state's position with regard to the implementation of a programme to improve the conditions of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, but Karma had his own persona.

The United Nations has also recognised the work done in Chhattisgarh under Singh's leadership and the fiscal management of the state is another feather in his cap. Singh chose to ban naxalite organisations in Chhattisgarh in 2005 under the Salwa Judum initiative -- a move supported by the opposition party as well-- that was led by late Mahendra Karma.

Karma was a minister in the undivided Madhya Pradesh. After Chhattisgarh was carved out of MP in 2000, he became the Industry and Commerce Minister of the new state. A After the Congress lost in the 2003 elections, he was made the Leader of the Opposition in the assembly. Karma lost the 2008 assembly elections. Despite the loss, he remained a key figure for the Congress in conflict-ridden Bastar's seven districts. In the run-up to the assembly elections, due by December, Karma had taken a lead role in trying to win the support of tribals for the Congress.

Chhattisgarh is among the states worst affected by Maoist violence. Between 2008 and 2012, Maoists killed more than 400 troopers and 550 civilians in the State. During the same period, security personnel killed more than 300 Maoists. The naxalites have been fighting the central government for more than four decades, demanding land and jobs for tenant farmers and the poor.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called Maoists India's biggest internal security threat. According to the home ministry, Maoists are now present in 20 of India's 28 states and have thousands of fighters.A Salwa Judum, the state-sponsored armed civilian militia in rural Chhattisgarh, came into existence in 2005. A After about six years, and after nearly 650 villages were torched and hundreds of Adivasis were displaced, killed or raped; the Supreme Court ordered Chhattisgarh to stop any form of support for Salwa Judum.

The apex court expressly prohibited 'Special Police Officers' from taking part in anti-Maoist operations. A Despite multiple fact-finding missions conducted by organizations such as PUCL, PUDR and Independent Citizens Initiative, reports on the atrocities committed by the SPOs were conspicuous by their absence in most of the national media till 2008. The nationwide support for Binayak Sen, while helping the case by bringing Chhattisgarh into focus, also inadvertently resulted in media coverage ignoring larger issues on hand.

Chhattisgarh meanwhile had become a police state. Access to the area and victims was severely restricted to independent observers. Phones were tapped and vicious slanderous campaigns started against activists.A The apex court ordered the state government to implement the National Human Rights Commission's recommendations for victims' rehabilitation and compensation in 2008, but the state government played it cool.

Following the concerted efforts of local activists, there was some solid documentation of victims' testimonials. Lawyers worked pro-bono and there rehabilitation efforts were facilitated by NGOs such as Vanvasi Chetna Ashram headed by Himanshu Kumar, ASDS, Andhra Solidarity Group, Action AID and the Association for India's Development.

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