April 07, 2020
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Who Has Given Up Arms?

Why the impressive surrender figures don’t add up

Who Has Given Up Arms?
Who Has Given Up Arms?

While it’s tempting to link the “20-fold increase in surrender of Maoists” in Chhattisgarh this year to the six- to seven-fold increase in rewards for informants and policemen, it does not give all the answers. The police HQ and the home department at Raipur, for example, have no information about surrenders that took place before 2012.

What then might explain the sudden surge in surrenders? While only 37 Maoists surrendered in Chhattisgarh in 2012  and 39 in 2013, around 400 of them are said to have surrendered till September 2014.  Officials attribute the spurt to disillusionment among Maoist cadres and the persuasive powers of Bastar IG S.R.P. Kalluri.

The officer’s posting in Bastar had triggered scepticism among rights activists—they feared fake encounters and fake surrenders. But at police HQ, they attribute it to his information network. Shalini, of the Legal Aid Network, Jagdalpur, alleges that innocent villagers are lured to surrender, with the promise of cash and jobs, and paraded before the media.

That some surrenders and arrests are dubious is borne out by the story of Manjhiram Kashyap and Sukhdev Nag, who surrendered on August 25 last year. Both were said to be involved in the ambush on Congress leaders in Darbha valley. But Kashyap is severely disabled from an accident and is unlikely to have taken part in the ambush. And Sukhdev had earlier been picked up by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which let him off after failing to prove his involvement.

Strategically, two days before Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma’s death anniversary, Kalluri had circulated a confessional video of a Maoist area commander of Darbha, where Karma had been killed. The “former commander”, Sannu Pottam, says he’s tired of some Maoist leaders from Andhra. In any case, most of the surrenders are from among the lower rungs.

Curiously for a state which has been fighting the Maoist menace right from its inception in 2000, Chhattisgarh claims to have neither paid the promised compensation to Maoists who have surrendered nor the promised reward to any policeman so far. Home Secretary Ashok Juneja admits that the committee to supervise relief and rehabilitation for the surrendered Maoists was formed in June-July, 2014. Why it took so long remains unexplained. Worse, the committee is yet to meet, according to additional D-G R.K. Vij.

What is even more difficult to believe is the contention that no policeman has received any reward for arresting Maoists. Suspicion that the money was diverted or siphoned off could not be confirmed. But Vij said no Maoist who surrendered during the last three years has been rehabilitated so far. A housing complex for them is ready in Rajnandgaon, but in view of the threat perception, no one has moved in.

The whereabouts of most surrendered militants is unclear. Vij claims some fear for their lives and stayed with the police, but some had gone back home. Outlook met three surrendered Maoist couples at the police lines in Rajnandgaon and none of them seemed to have a clue about the future. One of the couples, Kamlesh and Shilpa, acknowledged receiving Rs 5,000 every month but nothing else. They surrendered because the Maoists did not allow them to get married. And Shilpa says that though she’d learnt to use firearms, women were largely deployed as cooks by the rebels.

Chief Minister Raman Singh, however, seems to believe that his government’s strategies are paying off. And the days are not far when the state will be rid of Maoists, he told Outlook.

By Yashwant Dhote in Raipur

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