Salwa Judum: Nemesis of Chhattisgarh's tribals

Film>> India's Hidden War Directed by James Brabazon Produced by Sandra Jordan 30 minutes

By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Thursday 15 November 2007

"The Salwa Judum leadership said enough was enough. The government backed them." These are voices of supporters of Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh--a mission that was put together to pit civilians against Naxalites but is proving to be a nemesis for the area's tribals.

Directed by James Brabazon, India's Hidden War shows how villagers in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district are forced to leave their homes and join roadside camps put up by Salwa Judum, their houses are burnt and those who refuse to follow the herd are branded as Naxals, tortured and killed. Officials claim that life in Salwa Judum camps is safer. But according to the film, people are under more duress after the formation of the militia. Worse still, Salwa Judum has cornered most of the resources in the area. So tribals who choose not to join either of the warring groups are deprived of even the basic facilities. A tribal interviewed said he could not consult a doctor after he was attacked by a bear, because most medics have been taken to Salwa Judum camps.

Brabazon's colleague, Sandra Jordan who managed to sneak past Salwa Judum camps into Naxal-dominated area, points out that the only difference between the two militias is in their uniform. Both have similar weapons and both are baying for each other's blood. This underplaying of ideological differences seems a tad nave, but then perhaps, the director's intention could have been to bring out the travails of people caught between two belligerent groups.

The film takes viewers to steel plants in Raipur and to Salwa Judum camps; the filmmaker speaks to villages who are not a part of the camp, and then takes us to the Naxal hub.

The film ends with the Chhattisgarh chief minister, Raman Singh, heaping praises on Salwa Judum's roadside camps. The documentary makes its point effectively. The only drawback is that it begins to look like a news report, punctuated with bytes. It would have driven home its point harder had the tribals been allowed to speak.
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