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PUCL warns against using Chhattisgarh tragedy for further militarisation of Bastar

By Our Representative 

India's well-known human rights organisation, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), while condemning the "heavy loss of lives in the encounter between Maoists and security forces in Chhattisgarh", has appealed to all political parties to "maintain calm", insisting, it is time to "bring an end to all hostilities."
A statement signed by PUCL president Ravi Kiran Jain and general secretary Dr V Suresh, the top rights body, founded by Jayaprakash Narayan and VM Tarkunde, said it is not just the loss of life of 22 security personnel in the encounter on April 3 in forests near Jonaguda village in Sukma along the road connecting Bijapur-Sukma districts that is cause of concern, but also that "injured security people seeking refuge in houses were ambushed and stabbed to death."
According to PUCL, "Such use of violence against injured persons – irrespective of whether they are security persons or others – is unacceptable", adding, "This goes against the principles of humanitarian law, which is enshrined in national and international law, governing the basic rights of combatants in any conflict situation."
PUCL said, acting on intelligence to input that Naxalite leader Hidma was present in forests within the jurisdiction of Tarrem PS, a massive team of over 2,000 police and paramilitary troops from five different camps and stations in the districts of Sukma and Bijapur had been dispatched for searching operations in the area.
This team was returning on April 3, when it was ambushed by Maoists, and a three hour long pitched gun battle ensued, in which at least 22 security personnel and 12 Maoists, including a woman, were killed, 32 soldiers were injured and one went missing.
Rejecting the use of violence for "furthering political and strategic ends", PUCL, however, said, "The Maoist violence in Central India needs to be addressed through political means, and not military operations."
Asking political parties , State and Central governments and the security forces, as also Maoists, to "immediately cease military operations", it insisted, it is necessary to end "all other hostilities in order to initiate a process of dialogue to resolve all conflict issues."
According to PUCL, the encounter not only comes at a time of "escalating violence in Bastar due to the continuing insurgency and counter-insurgency operations", there is also an "extensive militarization of the area resulting in the daily harassment of ordinary citizens by paramilitary forces due to the setting up of camps at short distances."
Poi bynting out that this has caused "alienation of local tribals, who are caught in the middle of the conflict between the security forces and the Maoists", PUCL said, as a result, "In the past few months, there has been an alarming rise in the number of civilians killed."
Asserting that at the heart of the conflict that has engulfed the tribal areas of Bastar "are issues about the nature of development, expansion of industries and mines, all of which threaten to displace and dispossess millions of Adivasis", PUCL warned, "Using the current tragedy for further militarization in Bastar, which is already amongst the most militarized areas in the world, is a surefire recipe for disaster."
It said, "Peace can come not through military camps and military style operations. It can come only when both the state and its forces and the Maoists acknowledge the primacy of Adivasis communities and initiate a genuine dialogue between them and with the local populations about the nature and direction of state-sponsored development in the area."

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