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Orissa to launch its own Salwa Judum to fight Naxals

Taking a leaf out of the much-criticised Salwa Judum campaign of neighbouring Chhattisgarh...

Written by Debabratamohanty | Bhubaneswar |
October 31, 2008 11:29:46 pm

Taking a leaf out of the much-criticised Salwa Judum campaign of neighbouring Chhattisgarh, the Orissa Government would start a similar scheme of deploying 2,000 armed tribal youths as special police officers in five Maoist-infested districts to fight the Naxals.

Salwa Judum, an anti-Maoist movement, was started by the Raman Singh Government in 2005 to bring the area dominated by Naxals back under government control. Chhattisgarh Police employ SPOs, essentially tribal civilians who have been armed with .303 rifles.

The Orissa campaign which is yet to be named, possibly due to the controversy surrounding the three-year-old Salwa Judum, got the official stamp in a state Home Department resolution (No 47958 dated October 25, 2008) last week. The resolution says tribal men and women in the age group of 18-25 years from Maoist-infested districts of Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati, Raygada and Kandhamal would be appointed on a contractual basis for the first three years. Required to pass at least Std VIII, they would be made to undergo training in arms and ammunition like a regular policeman. As special police officers, they would be paid Rs 4,000 in the first two years and Rs 4,500 in the third year after which they might be absorbed as sepoys or constables in the regular police vacancies, said a senior home department official.

“It’s just like Salwa Judum. They will be doing the same things that the SPOs in Chhattisgarh are doing. The aim is to let the tribals defend themselves against the onslaught of Maoists,” said the Home Department official on condition of anonymity.

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While a senior police officer posted in the Maoist-affected districts said there was nothing wrong with Salwa Judum, Orissa Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj said there was no ad-hocism in Orissa Government’s plan of recruiting tribal youths unlike the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh. “The SPOs are not extra-judicial appointments and can’t be compared to Salwa Judum of Chhattisgarh,” he added.

Orissa has seen the maximum casualties in Naxalite-related violence this year among all the Naxalite-affected states with three daring attacks on the police, including the one on Greyhound police of Andhra Pradesh whose motorboat was sunk in the Balimela reservoir of Malkangiri district in June this year. Thirty-eight policemen, most of them Greyhounds, died in the attack.

In March this year, the Supreme Court had expressed its disapproval of Salwa Judum formation by the Chhattisgarh Government and giving them arms to tackle the Naxal menace.

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