October 7, 2008
Nandini Sundar, professor of sociology, Delhi School of Economics, and historian and writer Ramchandra Guha have filed a petition to stop the Chhattisgarh government from supporting and encouraging the Salwa Judum, a people's movement to counter the Naxalites.
The state government has denied that the Salwa Judum was a state-sponsored movement. The Supreme Court has disapproved arming the Salwa Judum, and the case continues.
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 vigilante group called Salwa Judum on the other, civilians have suffered a host of human rights abuses, including killings, torture, and forced displacement. The violence has destroyed hundreds of villages and uprooted tens of thousands of people from their homes.
The armed movement by Maoist groups spans four decades and 13 states across India. They purport to defend the rights of the poor, especially the landless, Dalits and tribal communities.
Sundar's book Subalterns and Sovereigns: An Anthropological History of Bastar traces the expansion of the colonial and the post-colonial state in Bastar, central India, between 1854 and 2006. The author's account of the region is at once the outcome of an intellectual as well as personal encounters with the region and its politics.
Sundar spoke to Rujuta Paradkar about the policy and politics adopted by the government of Chhattisgarh, the Salwa Judum and "the way in which people fall through the cracks of the democratic process".