Kashmir Times, 7 July 2011

Editorial

SOG is the mother of Salwa Judum

Apex court’s verdict in SJ case is even more applicable to dreaded SOG in Jammu

Supreme Court’s historic judgement on Tuesday, banning the notorious Salwa Judum outfit in Naxal-affected states has a significant relevance to Jammu and Kashmir. Salwa Judum is to (mainly) BJP-ruled states what the so-called Special Operations Group (SOG) is to this state. Both the irregular outfits are actually officially patronised armed gangs let loose to terrorise civilian population. Salwa Judum was the brainchild of BJP’s communal ideology which has a built-in bias for tribals and their way of life. Its blood stained history runs parallel to that of the SOG in Kashmir, the latter being its ‘secular’ edition. Both the anti-social outfits feed upon public money and loot. Their ‘operational’ history reads like record of licensed crimes against the society.

What the apex court’s detailed judgement says in justification for banning Salwa Judum applies in letter and spirit to the SOG. The court has made two specific points: (1) That the irregular combatants, unlike legally authorised forces in uniform, are beyond the pale of discipline and accountability imposed upon duly authorised regular forces of the state and (2) that even in their own case, untrained recruits of Salwa Judum are made to deal with situations requiring fully trained regular armed personnel. Salwa Judum gained notoriety as the armed irregulars patronised and hired by the BJP ruled states performed less of their declared task and indulged more and more in witch hunting of the BJP’s ideological opponents. Tribals in Madhya Pradesh and in neighbouring states became its worst victims. Excesses and atrocities perpetrated upon them attracted world-wide condemnation but the erstwhile NDA government at the centre looked the other way while states under BJP rule continued to promote Salwa Judum.

The history and ‘achievements’ of Salwa Judum are exactly similar to those of the SOG in this part of the country. Its origin lies in the creation of abominable Ikhwanis. ‘Converted’ militants were provided official protection, armed and let loose upon their own people. Some of the worst known atrocities have been committed by this tribe of notorious elements. When the pressure of public opinion against this menace grew, the authorities devised a deceptive mechanism. SOG personnel were inducted into the ranks of regular police force wherever their exclusive outfit became too hot a potato to carry. In practical terms, the SOG is very much there; it has only been camouflaged. However, this deceptive tactic does not make any difference to the reality of what the SOG is all about.

Now that the Supreme Court has held SOG’s equivalent Salwa Judum to be an unlawful outfit and called for its immediate disbandment, authorities in J&K would be better advised to take the cue and do what ought to be done. The spirit of the judicial pronouncement in this case is stronger than its letter which confines itself to Salwa Judum for purely technical reasons. If anything, SOG has not only been used to undermine the constitution and law as interpreted by the Supreme Court, but it has also been enabled to infiltrate and poison the state’s constitutional, democratic system. Thinly disguised patronage enjoyed by Ikhwanis and their local political collaborators in legislative elections is an open secret. Their obnoxious presence within the system has fouled the atmosphere. If Salwa Judum deserves to go, SOG qualifies more strongly to follow suit.

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