Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Human Rights Watch Reveals Disturbing Realities of Conflict-Induced Displacement in Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh

Ishita Dey

In a latest finding by Human Rights Watch, which is based on four weeks on-the-ground research in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh in late 2007 and early 2008, including approximately 175 accounts from affected villagers, Salwa Judum leaders, government officials and police, and former Naxalites the group called for an end to all government support for unlawful activities by the Salwa Judum vigilantes, and urged affected state governments to take immediate measures to protect the tens of thousands of persons displaced. Human Rights Watch also called on Maoist rebels known as Naxalites to end attacks on civilians and other abuses.

The 182-page report, “‘Being Neutral is Our Biggest Crime’: Government, Vigilante, and Naxalite Abuses in India’s Chhattisgarh State,” documents human rights abuses against civilians, particularly indigenous tribal communities, caught in a deadly tug-of-war between government security forces and the vigilante Salwa Judum and Naxalites.

The report highlights the impact of this conflict on children’s lives. The Naxalites have long used children as young as 6 years old as informers and children from 12 years old in armed operations. The Chhattisgarh police have recruited and used children as special police officers to assist government security forces in the region, often deploying them in high-risk anti-Naxalite combing operations. While the Chhattisgarh police have acknowledged this as an error, the government is yet to devise a scheme for systematically identifying, demobilizing, and rehabilitating such underage special police officers.

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