A Bandra resident and lawyer has gone head to head with Eagle Brigade — a citizen’s neighbourhood watch group formed a year ago — challenging the group’s very existence as being unconstitutional, as per a Supreme Court judgement.
On Sunday, Mount Mary resident Desmond D’Souza, fired off a legal notice to the additional CP of the Western Region Vishwas Nangre-Patil and the new commissioner of police Dr Satyapal Singh, arguing that the Supreme Court judgement in the Salwa Judum case labels civilian militia as unconstitutional.
The letter states, ‘This Eagle Brigade happens to be idle, anti-social elements who have illegal residences and make a living by extortion. They are in the pay of builders besides being followers of an influential local politician. These people of the Eagle Brigade are presently going around telling the persons who have bid to put up candle stalls for the Bandra Fair that they cannot put up stalls as they are related to each other, even though they are all separate families’. The letter urges the police to intervene and disband the group.
Speaking to MiD DAY, D’Souza said, “The T-shirts and caps worn by the Brigade are all provided by a local politician. Some members even have criminal cases pending against them.”
Many other local residents have sent complaints to the police in the past, complaining that the group’s vice president, Benedict Soares, is connected to a builder and has been threatening them.
Confirming the development, Vishwas Nangre-Patil said, “I am in receipt of D’Souza’s email and will take action.”
The words Salwa Judum mean ‘peace march’ in the Gondi language. Started in 2006, Salwa Judum was a militia formed in Chhattisgarh to tackle naxalite insurgency, with government backing. It deployed and armed local tribal youths as ‘special police officers’ to combat naxals. The Supreme Court passed a judgement in 2011 declaring it illegal.
The Other Side
Denying all allegations, Eagle Brigade’s vice president Benedict Soares said, “I do not have any police cases registered against me. There is no proof that I or any Eagle Brigade members have taken bribes. There are many detractors of the Eagle Brigade who spread rumours about me. Six months ago, someone even wrote to the collector complaining that I am secretly a Muslim with connections to the D-Company. When we discovered that two members were drinking during duty hours we had them removed. We are only active during Ganeshotsav and the Mount Mary fair, and otherwise patrol the area looking for criminals.”
According to Soares, the group mostly comprises senior citizens, women and a few enthusiastic local youths. Responding to the allegation that a local politician was doling out their shirts, Soares added, “We have made the members pay for the shirts and caps themselves.”