Grey areas in anti-Naxal operations

While there have been incidents of police using informers in various roles,it is probably the first reported death of such a person

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | Published: August 26, 2013 12:16 am

The death of a tribal ‘informer’ while defusing a bomb in Sukma has not gone down well with the top brass in the Raipur police headquarters. The district police maintain that he was just an informer. Inside reports confirm he was a surrendered Maoist but was not officially arrested and was secretly deployed for anti-Naxal operations. Officers,in any case,have no answer as to why a non-policeman was made part of a patrol party,and worse,why an untrained person was asked to defuse a bomb instead of calling the bomb disposal squad.

While there have been incidents of police using informers in various roles,it is probably the first reported death of such a person during an operation and questions the policy for them.

Though officers have admitted their mistake in the present case,they also point out that the character of this jungle war makes it difficult for them to not bypass some established rules. When terrain is hostile,and coordinates few and far,life loses its sanctity. The nature and rules of policing in Dantewada would inevitably be different from those in Delhi as a surrendered Maoist is unlike any ordinary offender. While a surrendered Maoist remains in police custody,his arrest sometimes is not officially declared immediately after the surrender for practical reasons. His credentials and the insider information he provides need to be verified before the arrest on paper.

These logistical and operational hurdles,however,create a grey area and offer non-codified and unconstitutional powers to ground officers,which if misused can legitimise the most illegal acts.

Chhattisgarh has already seen one such instance,Salwa Judum. A similar doctrine of necessity was flouted in the summer of 2005 when groups of tribal youths were handed over guns and since then the Maoists have only gained strength and momentum. Judum’s architect Mahendra Karma was killed this summer,and last week the Supreme Court issued a notice to the state government that why its failure to execute the July 2011 order of disbanding the SPOs not considered as contempt of court.

As the government prepares its reply scheduled for October 3,it should debate the larger policy of engaging with tribal youths in Bastar. It would then realise that bringing them in police fold and giving guns is the most implausible option to ensure their distance from Maoists.

Ashutosh is a special correspondent based in Raipur

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