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'We are in a war situation in Chhattisgarh'

October 3, 2008
Chhattisgarh Director General Police Vishwa Ranjan finds it difficult to get away, especially if he wants to travel abroad.

While attending a conference at the University of California, Berkeley, on justice and law, he told, "It was hard to get away. I wasn't getting permission to take leave. But luckily the Model Code of Conduct (for the upcoming assembly poll) is not imposed so far, so I could make it here."

The DGP was referring to the dire situation in Chhattisgarh, where there has been a dramatic escalation in Maoist violence since June 2005.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, caught in a deadly tug-of-war between an armed Maoist movement on one side, and the government security forces plus a government-backed vigilante group called Salwa Judum on the other, civilians have suffered human rights abuses, including killings, torture, and forced displacement. It has destroyed hundreds of villages and uprooted tens of thousands of people from their homes.

The armed movement by the Maoist groups spans four decades and extends over 13 states in India. They purport to defend the rights of the poor, especially the landless, Dalits and tribal communities. Their repeated armed attacks across a growing geographical area led Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 to describe the Naxalite movement as the "single biggest internal security challenge" faced by the country.

Amidst the heat generated by the human rights groups, and some UC Berkeley students protesting against the DGP's visit to their campus, Rujuta Paradkar asks Ranjan about the growing violence in Chhattisgarh, the Maoist movement and the Salwa Judum.

Tell us about the situation in Chhattisgarh. Why has the violence increased so dramatically over the past couple of years?

This is not a new thing. For the last 30 years the State was receding from areas where the Maoists were dominating. Around 2004, we decided to recapture, I would say re-occupy what was ceded. To say that there was no violence then and there is so much violence now is not true. Police records for the last 20-25 years will show zero crime because no one was permitted to come to the police station. Now violence has become evident because cases are registered.

People are not able to see that we are in a war situation. The whole area has been 'mined' so badly… So you are virtually fighting a war.

Image: Paramilitary forces on patrol in the Maoist-affected Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh. (Inset) DGP Vishwa Ranjan.
Photograph: Manpreet Romana/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: 'Salwa Judum can't work in the long run'

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