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Surrenders, encounter killings weakening Maoists

Lucrative surrender policy, strong local bodies, improved communication and connectivity have brought down the number of people killed in Maoist violence.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2017 12:24 IST
B Vijay Murty
Lucrative surrender policy, strong local bodies, improved communication and connectivity have brought down the number of people killed in Maoist violence.
Lucrative surrender policy, strong local bodies, improved communication and connectivity have brought down the number of people killed in Maoist violence.(PTI File Photo)

Kanhu Munda served the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) in various capacities, from sentry to state secretary, over the last 17 years.

A hardcore extremist wanted by the police forces of Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha, Munda was involved in at least 47 subversive acts. The 45-year-old resident of the non-descript Jian village in Jharkhand’s Gudabanda region also carried a reward of Rs. 25 lakh on his head.

And thus, it came as nothing short of a surprise when Munda surrendered before the police with his entire squad – comprising seven members – on February 15. The reason, he said, was a drastic change in philosophy.

“The guerilla warfare tactic is no longer sustainable,” admitted the once-dreaded Maoist, who is now in judicial custody. “If you have a grudge against the state and want to remain alive enough to fight it, you have to come out of hiding and join mainstream politics.”

Munda’s surrender came barely 20 days after his colleague, Jayant Pal, laid down arms with his wife, Anita, before the Bengal DGP on January 25. The two are accused of murdering Jamshedpur MP Sunil Mahato, among other charges.

The string of surrenders doesn’t end here. Jhargram superintendent of police Bharati Ghosh succeeded in convincing another top Maoist leader – Jayant alias Saheb Murmu – to surrender along with his entire seven-member squad on February 20. Two of them were women.

The situation is similar in neighbouring Bihar and Odisha, where Maoist leaders are either getting killed or laying down arms under pressure from security forces.

Bengal and Jharkhand police have already begun proclaiming that their states will soon be Maoist-free.

In Bengal, the menace of red extremism is confined to the Junglemahal region – comprising the districts of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore. Even there, the Maoist threat seems to be breathing its last, with all but one leader – Aseem Mandal alias Akash – still eluding arrest. As many as 219 Maoist leaders have surrendered in the state over the last six years. Others, including maverick Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, have been killed.

Meanwhile, both Jharkhand and Bengal are trying to their best to either lure or trap Akash. The Mamata government has entrusted two Trinamool ministers and five legislators from Junglemahal with the task of negotiating with the fugitive.

The other states are drawing similar strategies. “If Akash surrenders to us, he will immediately get a cash reward of Rs 1 crore deposited in his bank account,” said Shailendra Burnwal, rural superintendent of police of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand.

The last three years have been extremely successful in the Jharkhand police’s war against Maoists. During this period, they killed 170 insurgents, arrested 1,500 and orchestrated the surrender of 62. Among the slain extremists were Sylvester Minz and Ashish Yadav, both carrying ?25-lakh rewards.

“We are going to wipe out the Maoists within the next six months,” said Anurag Gupta, ADGP of the Jharkhand police special branch. DGP DK Pandey said Maoists are now confined to a small pocket in the Latehar-Gumla-Lohardaga axis, and will be eliminated soon.

The latest figures produced by the home ministry also painted a positive picture of the situation. It showed that only 106 districts in 10 states of the country are now under the influence of Left-wing extremism, down from 203 districts in 2013.

Experts cited strong elected local bodies in rural zones, penetration of mobile phone connectivity and enhanced communication, improved road connectivity, increased mobility of security forces and dwindling Maoist cadres as the reasons for the decline.

“The attractive surrender policies being offered by the Jharkhand and Odisha governments are also enticing Maoist leaders to surrender in large numbers,” said Jamshedpur senior police superintendent Anoop T Mathews.

Bengal goes one better in this regard. Unlike other states, Maoists who surrender here don’t even have to go to jail. They are accommodated in police safehouses with their families, and the cases against them are withdrawn.

Maoist ideologue Shashi Bhushan Pathak — who died three days ago — had said the authorities cannot eliminate the ideology through force or enticement. “You may arrest or kill a Maoist leader, but you cannot eliminate Maoism. It’s a war against poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and violation of human rights. Maoism will thrive as long as these factors exist,” he said.

However, former Maoist leader Aseem Banerjee had a different take on the matter. He recently told a newspaper that present-day extremists cannot sustain themselves for long because they have secured the people’s supported through force and coercion.