New Delhi: India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the central state of Chhattisgarh to disband a militia force founded to combat Maoist guerrillas who control large areas of the country.
Salwa Judum, or Peace March, was set up in 2005 as a civil society movement to campaign against left-wing violence in Chhattisgarh, but some members were later armed by state authorities.
Chhattisgarh administrators were criticised for encouraging vigilantes to operate outside the law, after they also recruited about 3,000 so-called special police officers to take on the rebels.
“How will employing and arming ill-equipped youngsters help to combat insurgency?” Supreme Court judges B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar said in an order.
They said the Salwa Judum militia violated the Indian constitution and that such groups should be disarmed and not given further funding.
Civil rights groups say the Salwa Judum and special police officers have used indiscriminate deadly force on the pretext of battling the well-entrenched Maoist guerrillas.
Chhattisgarh is in the eye of the increasingly lethal insurgency which has spread through east and central India.
The Maoist movement, which began in 1967, feeds off land disputes, police brutality and corruption, and is strongest in the poorest and most deprived areas of India, many of which are rich in natural resources.