New Delhi: As the first phase of polling gets underway in Chhattisgarh, the People's Union of Democratic Rights (PUDR) has condemned the string of killings in the region, terming the Maoist defence of certain killings as "specious and unacceptable."
In a statement, the PUDR held that "contesting, campaigning, voting and boycotting are perfectly legitimate political activities and the use of force and violence in any of these is condemnable", adding that "for the Maoists, who insist that they are waging a People’s War, these violent acts water down their claim."
In the run-up to voting in the first phase, which includes the Bastar region, several killings have taken place, including of a Doordarshan cameraperson, for which the Maoists had expressed regret
"Although the Maoists have apologised for the killing of Doordarshan cameraman, they have defended the ambush, the IED explosion as well as the killings of Aaytu Hemla and Dhruva Kalmu. While it is not possible to ascertain the degree of association of these events with the upcoming Assembly elections and the Maoist opposition to the same, these events have occurred in the immediate run up to these elections," PUDR said, adding that it finds the "Maoist defense specious and unacceptable."
Noting that the "Adivasis of Bastar have been fighting the state over issues of forest land acquisition for mining, systematic dilution of constitutional and legal protection provided to Adivasis, filing of false cases and their prolonged incarceration in jails", it said that the "democratic space to raise these issues has already been heavily criminalized by the state. In this context, the wanton acts of the CPI (Maoist) give impetus to the state to further inflict harm through criminal and military means."
PUDR also expressed concern over the huge scale of militarisation by the Centre and state government in a bid to end Maoism (it cited a PTI report, close a lakh armed personnel with heavy assortment of weapons and gadgets have been deployed in the state), it said " this scale of militarisation is not conducive for the maintenance of people’s constitutional rights, including the right to free and fair elections."
It called upon both Maoists and the state machinery to abide by International Humanitarian Law norms extended via common article 3 of the Geneva Convention read with Protocol II to ensure that civilians/non-combatants are not put to harm by any of their activities.