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            Raipur, August 22, 2008: Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international human rights body, has called for total halt to the controversial Salwa Judum activities in Chhattisgarh saying there was large scale rights abuse by the anti-naxal activities in the state.

            The HRW has prepared a 182-page report on Government, vigilante and Naxal abuses in Chhattisgarh state titled Being neutral is our biggest crime, the rights body said adding it had collected more than 50 eyewitnesses accounts of attacks involving government security forces in 18 different villages in Bijapur and Dantewada districts, where the Salwa Judum campaign was continuing.

            Chhattisgarh government has denied supporting Salwa Judum, but dozens of eyewitnesses have described police participating in violent Salwa Judum raids on villages, killing looting and burning their hamlets, the HRW said adding instead of promoting vigilantes the state government should promote respect for human rights and pursuing accountability.

            During visit of the naxal affected areas, it was found that since mid-2005 government security forces and members of the Salwa Judum, which officials falsely describe as a spontaneous citizen’s anti-naxal movement, attacked villages, killed and raped villagers and burnt down huts to force people into government camps, Advocacy Director of the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Jo Becker also said.

            The HRW also attacked the Maoists saying the naxalites have also been responsible for widespread human rights abuses, including torturing, extortion, summery execution and the recruitment of child soldiers.

            The naxal conflict had given rise to one of the largest internal displacement crises in India- at least one lakh people have resettled in camps in southern Chhattisgarh or fled to neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh, it said.

Those living in camps have limited access to government health care of livelihood opportunities, the HRW said.

            It said about 50,000 displaced people have settled in the forest lands of Andhra Pradesh and are doubly dispossessed. Saying that their hamlets are illegal, Andhra Pradesh administration had been using excessive force to evict or relocate them repeatedly, with out consulting with or giving alternative adequate housing to the displaced, the right body added.

            Forest officials of Andhra Pradesh have repeatedly burned many of these hamlets to the ground,  it added.

            Stating that many of the displaced persons wanted to return to their villages in Chhattisgarh, the HRW called on the Maoists to immediately end all attacks against civilians and allow camp residents also to return to their home villages without reprisals.

            The report also said the conflict between naxalites and state forces had also severely impaired children’s access to education and once Salwa Judum started many children stopped attending school for fear of abduction.

            The Maoists have also destroyed many schools, ostensibly to prevent their use for military or Salwa Judum operations, it said adding schools have been relocated to camps, which displaced children study in crowded conditions.

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