Friday, October 06, 2006

A new role for the notorious STF???

The Tamil Nadu Government, according to reports, is thinking of deploying the personnel of the Special Task Force (STF) across the Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh border districts to check the Maoists from entering into Tamil Nadu. Set up almost a decade ago with a specific brief to nab Veerappan, the STF, drawn from among the personnel of the Tamil Nadu police now consists of about 750 men trained in combing operation as well as to handle sophisticated weapons.

It is of specific concern here that the STF personnel are not empower by the law to detain anyone on their own. Section 41(1) of the CrPC, for instance, restricts the power of arrest only within the declared jurisdiction of a police officer. The STF, thus, can merely function as an armed force and does not have a formally notified jurisdiction for exercise of the normal police powers of arrest or search. The only way to over come this would be to formally notify the headquarters of the STF as a Police station (under section 2(a) of the CrPC) and this area should then be specified to cover all the border districts.

Now, it is a different matter that the STF men had gone about holding at least a couple of hundred men, women and children in their detention camps for long periods of time and the Justice Sadashiva Panel (set up by the National Human Rights Commission in June 1999) after several hearings in the Satyamangalam-Mettur region, concluded that such illegal arrests were carried out by the STF personnel in a rampant manner. The panel also found several instances of gross rights violations including murder and rape by the STF men in its report presented to the NHRC in December 2003. The NHRC, for some reason, has refused to initiate action to identify criminal culpability in this regard.

While the NHRC cannot pronounce the judgment in this regard, the Commission could have taken up the task of registering complaints in the respective police stations as a first step to fix criminal culpability. This has not happened and is unlikely to happen. The NHRC, even in case of the disappearance of a large number of people in Punjab (during the K.P.S.Gill era) and the discovery of dead bodies later has only recommended cash compensation to the kin of those killed rather than working of fixing criminal culpability.
This inaction from the NHRC will indeed be seen by the STF personnel as sanction for its lawless ways and it is now likely that they may end up doing similar things in the border districts as and when the force is deployed there, this time to deal with the Maoists.
Be that as it may, it is doubtful as to whether such deployment is called for at all. For the political scene in Tamil Nadu is not the same as in the Telengana and the Coastal Andhra region and in that sense, there is very little scope for the Maoists setting up any base of significance in this part. It is not as if the Tamil speaking districts are free from discrimination; there is evidence of abject poverty and it is also a fact that this is due to discrimination based on social conditions.

But then, the political scene in Tamil Nadu, particularly in these districts bordering Andhra Pradesh, are home to the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), headed by Thirumavalavan, who had been closer to the Maoist idea at some point in the past and now transformed into a political outfit that is similar in its approach and attitude to the BSP in Uttar Pradesh. After having pushed a radical line of poll boycott and local resistance against caste based oppression, Thirumavalavan’s DPI is now a party that steers clear of all ideological trappings! And the Dalit ranks too are not angry with this shift.

This being the ground reality, it is unlikely that the Maoists will find any basis to emerge into a force in Tamil Nadu. Similarly, the Pattali Makkal Katchi, after having drawn a section of the Maoist leaning vanniar youth into its ranks is now entrenched in the power structure. The last time when its local leaders were seen with the pro-Maoist youth was when the Tamil National Liberation Army, along with Veerappan had taken Kannada idol Rajkumar as hostage. It is clear that the TNLA is only an appendage of these politicos and has very little to do with Maoist ideas.

These are factors that should lead anyone to agree that the Maoists are not and cannot build themselves into a force in Tamil Nadu. The simple point is that the Maoists can and will emerge into a force only where the façade of democracy has given way to naked and unqualified oppression based on feudal or semi-feudal structures. This is not the case in Tamil Nadu. With a long history of the reservation policy and the upward mobility of the Other Backward Castes, the social set-up is indeed different in Tamil Nadu from that of Andhra Pradesh.

There is, however, another argument against the idea of deploying the STF personnel to deal with the possible Maoist influence in Tamil Nadu. And this arises from the record of this force. Forensic and ballistic experts have held that at least a dozen persons including a few women were shot dead by the STF from a distance of less than three metres and then described as encounter deaths.

As many as 128 persons who were picked up by the STF had to languish in the Mysore jail as TADA detenues for several years before they were set free because the charges against them were unfounded by the Special Court set up in Mysore.

And it is a fact that the DMK-led Government of Tamil Nadu had recently ordered compensation to the tune of Rs. Two lakhs to the next of kin of some such people who were killed in those fake encounters. The Tamil Nadu Government had acted on the basis of the Justice Sadashiva panel’s report.

It is strange and sad that the STF will be given a fresh lease of life by the same political leader, M.Karunanidhi, who ordered cash compensation to the kin of those who were murdered by the STF personnel only the other day.

Well, like Dylon sang; Yes, 'n how many times can a man turn his head, Pretending he just doesnt see? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind, The answer is blowing in the wind


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