Posters found along the Jagadalpur-Konta National Highway 221 in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district have singled out 12 Special Police Officers (SPOs) and police constables for punishment at the hands of “the people” and the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
These posters brand these men as “enemies of the people” who shall never be forgiven and shall be hunted down by the PLGA and put to death.
SPOs are individuals employed by the district police on a temporary basis and have been deployed at the forefront of Chhattisgarh’s fight against Maoists. However, they have also been accused of human rights violations in several instances and have been variously described as an ill-trained and unaccountable force by rights activists.
Handwritten on A4 sheets with felt markers and signed by the South Bastar Division Committee of the CPI (Maoists), the pamphlets urge the SPOs to renounce their association with the police and return to their villages.
However, the provenance of the posters cannot be conclusively established as the Maoists are yet to issue a formal statement on the Supreme Court’s Wednesday order declaring the appointment of SPOs unconstitutional. In the past, the Maoists have contacted journalists to disown pamphlets bearing the name of their party.
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court said SPOs could not be deployed in anti-Maoist operations in any form or fashion. The Chhattisgarh police have begun disarming its 5,000-odd SPOs and have withdrawn them from the operations. Senior officers said the State government was still mulling over its legal options and was yet to decide on the fate of the erstwhile fighters.
In the interim, the court has directed Chhattisgarh to ensure that the SPOs are adequately protected from Maoist reprisals.