Two Manipuri villages rethink on their decision to have their own Salva Judum after a visit to Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district
THE METHODS and premises of the Salva Judum — Chhattisgarh’s controversial civilian mobilisation against the state’s Naxals — remain bitterly contested, but analysing the pros and cons of the strategy represents far more than mere academic interest in insurgency-riddled Manipur. After a series of militant attacks, two villages here — Heirok in Thoubal district and Chajing Konjeng Leikai in Imphal West district — decided this year to ask the government for permission to bear arms against the ultras. With the Union Home Ministry granting consent, the state government decided to create 500 Special Police Officer (SPO) posts from the two villages, 300 from Heirok and 200 from Chajing.
However, even as the prospective SPOs were preparing to enrol for training, a team of concerned village elders and state human rights activists managed last month to visit Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district on invitation from the New Delhi-based Campaign for Justice and Peace in Chhattisgarh. “We wanted to familiarise ourselves with the ground reality that has emerged there due to the induction of SPOs into the ongoing armed conflict, and to learn lessons for Manipur,” says Mandir Singh, a member of the Joint Action Committee (JAC), formed to muster SPOs from the two villages. What the team saw in Dantewada appears to have been a revelation. After a series of meetings with a range of stakeholders — from representatives of the National Human Rights Commission to police personnel and Salva Judum activists — the group found itself in two minds over what it had previously assumed were the benefits of the Salva Judum model.