'295 active Maoist militias, sympathisers surrendered in Malkangiri', says Odisha police
The Odisha police on Saturday said that 295 active Maoist militias, members of local village committee, Maoist sympathisers and members of Maoist frontal organisations like Gana Natya Sangha in four villages of former Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) bastion of Swabhiman Anchal in Malkangiri district have surrendered before them. Police officials said 295 men and women of Dhakadpadar, Dabuguda,Taber and Arlingpada villages of of Jantri grampanchayat in Swabhiman Anchal area of Malkangiri that once served as training ground for the rebels surrendered at a function organised at the BSF camp in Jantri.
“The villagers who surrendered were involved in several exchanges of fire, arson cases, civilian killings, hoisting of black flags instead of national flag, burning of vehicles, boycotting MLA-MP elections, supply of food and logistics to Maoists, passing of information about movement of security forces, threatening and assaulting of innocent tribals to leave their native villages on the pretext of police informers.
To show their opposition to Maoist idelogy, villagers burnt the dress materials of Maoists and gave slogans “Maobadi Murdabad”. The district administration distributed job cards and pension cards to the surrendered villagers,” said a senior police official in Bhubaneswar. On June 2, police said that at least 50 villagers of Jantri gram panchayat had surrendered before them.
Police said the surrender of villagers came after the Border Security Force (BSF) set up its base at Jantri, which is at the extreme end of Swabhiman Anchal and was inaccessible by road during monsoon season. The BSF base at Jantri is expected to hit Maoist influence in Jantri, Andrapalli, Dhauliput and Ralegada grampanchayats, officials said.
However, tribal activists in Malkangiri questioned the government and the police and termed the surrender an eyewash. “How do the tribals gain by surrendering? In 2016 too, the then Malkangiri SP had engineered similar surrender of over 700 tribals in different villages calling them Maoist sympathisers. None of them got any benefit from the state government by surrendering. Today’s surrender is also an eyewash. In any case, how are the villagers responsible for the violence as they lived in Maoist bastion and had little option than to help them,” asked Malkangiri-based tribal activist, Ghenu Muduli. Chitrakonda sub-divisional police officer Anshuman Dwivedi conceded that none of the 295 people who surrendered before police on Saturday would be eligible to get any assistance under the state government scheme for surrender and rehabilitation of left-wing extremists that was last revised in 2014. “As per the scheme, only armed and cadre Maoists are eligible for rehabilitation. Though the villagers would not get any monetary assistance as per the rehabilitation policy, the surrender is an important development as militias play an active role in Maoist movement. This also shows that Maoists are losing force in their erstwhile bastion,” said Dwivedi.
Rights activist Biswapriya Kanungu also raised questions about the mass surrender saying it contradicted Odisha government’s claim in 2012 that just about 50 Maoists were there operating on Odisha-Andhra border. “If so many are surrendering, then it means Maoist movement has gone up in the last 1 year. If not, the government should explain the details of today’s surrender,” he said. As per the Odisha scheme for surrender and rehabilitation of left-wing extremists, only state committee members, regional committee members, central committee members, politburo members, area commanders, sub-zonal commanders, zonal commanders and ‘dalam’ members are eligible to get financial assistance once they surrender. They get ₹2.5 lakh cash award, cash equivalent of 4 decimal homestead land, house building grant as per Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, ₹3,000 per annum for pursuing studies and marriage incentive of ₹25,000.
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