Jharkhand will strike off several armed groups from the official list of Maoist organisations and declare them rogues, chief minister Raghubar Das said on Wednesday, unveiling plans to tackle rag-tag outfits involved in extortion, abductions and killings.
Jharkhand lies in the so-called ‘red corridor’, a string of states infested by armed Maoist groups – officially called left-wing extremists (LWEs) -- claiming to be fighting for the rights of peasants, tribals and landless labourers.
At least 17 armed groups are active in Jharkhand but police say that most of them are just running extortion rackets targeting businessmen and the salaried. Besides, some of these gangs are also accused of raping women and trafficking girls.
The biggest and most influential of them, the CPI (Maoists) has a separate armed wing called the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army.
Sources said the trigger for the decision was the murder of a television journalist in Chatra, allegedly by a splinter Maoist outfit for his refusal to pay ‘tax’ to the outfit.
“Unlike the Maoists, the various other armed groups operating from our jungles like People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) and Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) have no ideology. They extort money and indulge in violence. They do not deserve mercy and needs tough treatment,” Das said.
Police said delisting groups from the LWE list will enable security forces to go after them as ordinary criminals. Though Maoists are also targeted by security forces, the government considers them a political problem, keeping the option open for talks and also offers them lucrative surrender packages.
Also, security forces killed or injured during operations against Maoist groups are entitled to special compensation packages from the government.
Inspector general of police Manvinder Singh Bhatia told HT that the proposal to “delist these jungle gangs from LWE is under active consideration”.
A top Maoist leader, Kisaanda from West Bengal had revealed to police that mineral-rich Jharkhand was very crucial for the Maoist movement as it gave them maximum levy that helps in strengthening their armories.
Over the years, the easy money gave rise to several splinter and new groups all claiming to be motivated by the Maoist ideology.
Rights groups allege that several groups enjoy political patronage. Security agencies are also accused of backing some groups to use them against the Maoists.
HT had published a series of reports highlighting how these gangs were wrecking havoc in the countryside and forces were overlooking the people’s plight.