The red corridor in Maharashtra’s east is shrinking, and fast, as the police and paramilitary forces continued to increase their hold over Maoist areas, particularly Gadchiroli, for the second year in a row.
In the past two years (2013-14), some trends have emerged, making evident the state’s dominance and the success of its surrender policy. Maoists are surrendering, their casualties increased and in effect, the number of attacks dropped.
Eighty-nine Maoists, of different ranks have surrendered so far, while 39 were killed in police encounters during this period. Further, the number of security personnel who died reduced drastically in the last two years, when compared with the first 10 years of the new millennium.
The security forces’ upper hand is because of their aggressive stance, according to Anup Kumar, inspector general (IG), anti-Maoist operations. “What has also helped is persuading the ultras to surrender, through their families, under the state government’s Navjeevan policy. We also broadened our intelligence base, which led to the arrest of many active and underground groups,” Kumar said.
A case in point is the arrest of 24-year-old Aruna Punai Debsingh Netam, a deputy commander of the Tipagarh Dalam (unit) in Dhanora tehsil. Aruna, who was arrested last week, was active for 15 years and involved in attacks on police parties since 2011. She belonged to the dreaded Company No 10 of the People’s War Group (PWG) and carried a cash reward of Rs6 lakh. Aruna’s is the latest in a series of arrests: four section commanders and eight deputy section commanders were arrested in 2013-14.
“We will continue our aggressive stance,” said Bipin Bihari, additional director general, special ops.
Jayant Umranikar, former director general, special ops, said the attractive surrender policy helped. “Plus, there is growing disillusionment among members of the group. The ideology has stopped attracting the youth, affecting fresh recruitment,” said Umranikar, but added, “The conflict will increase, and this should be matched with more surrenders.”
“The LTTE’s annihilation in Sri Lanka has shown the state’s might. There is also the realisation among Maoists that the romanticism of encircling cities is not realistic,” said Jatin Desai, journalist-turned-activist. “So, the cadre has scattered, the movement’s core has become weak.”
However, some observers believe the surrenders could be a tactical move to expand cadre base.
Faheem Khan, a senior journalist from Vidarbha and an old Maoist watcher, said, “The police has the upper hand now. But, these surrenders could be tactical in the face of increased pressure. Going by history, ultras use this time to recruit and regroup, before bouncing back with a vengeance.”
The state’s Navjeevan policy, extended till August 29, 2015, provides Maoists with incentives, including money, employment and education for their children
* 30 Maoist couples are among those who have laid down their arms under the scheme
* The financial package offered ranges between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 1 crore, depending on their rank and profile in the rebel group
* The surrendered Maoists are provided with employment, land, bullock carts, and diesel engines
* The government also ensures the education of their children
* Under their scheme, the Maoists’ identity is kept secret and they are given protection
Surrenders in five years
Dalam (unit) commanders
Deputy Dalam commanders