Salwa Judum and the Supreme Court

In two excellent posts (here and here), Rohit and Tarunabh have brought to light interesting aspects of the decision in Nandini Sundar. In today’s Hindu newspaper, I offer my thoughts on the order (here). In particular, I argue that we need to engage more deeply with the legal significance of the decision, and stop limiting our focus to the bizarre but largely irrelevant rhetorical flourish contained in the order.

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  • One wonders whether now, after Nandini Sundar, a constitutional challenge to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1957 could possibly be succesful. In my opinion, the Court has certainly expanded the content of Article 21. But it is possible that in its application to the AFSPA challenge, the court's emphasis on the tribals being illiterate etc may come in the way of unconstitutionality.

  • I'm not a lawyer, but I do believe there is a deeper significance to the rhetorical flourish in that judgement. The competition seems to have been between two sets of elites discussing models of economic development, and using the issue of SPOs merely as a hook on which to hang competing claims. There was minimal engagement with the details of how this private militia came about and why. The entire process seemed to underline how removed the judicial system is from adivasis life and customs. In that sense, the allusions to Conrad were extremely relevant (and ironic) since the judges were unconsciously mirroring the way in which imperial critics like Conrad nonetheless found it impossible to imagine a world beyond imperialism.

    I expand on this here: