By Mrinal Kanta Das*
A former Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadre, identified as Madhav Warlu Padda (38), was killed by his former colleagues with sharp weapons near Mauja-Kotmi village in Etapally area of Gadchiroli District in Maharashtra on July 22, 2015. An unnamed official said the former Maoist was eliminated because the Maoists were against his decision to surrender. He had surrendered in November 2014. Before his surrender, Padda had been with the Kasansoor Dalam (armed squad) of the CPI-Maoist for 10 years, since 2005.
Earlier, between June 22 and July 5, Maoists killed another four of their senior cadres – Hemla Bhagat, a member of the Darbha Divisional Committee (DVC) and ‘chief’ of the Maoists’ military intelligence wing in the area; Kosi Kursem, wife of Hemla Bhagat, who was working with the Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Majdoor Sangh (DAKMS), a Maoist front organization; Masa Podivami alias Badru a DVC member of the Darbha area, and Hinge – who ‘wanted to surrender’. Ayatu, the ‘secretary’ of the Malangir Area Committee, has reportedly been ‘detained’ by his comrades in the Bastar Division of Chhattisgarh.
The Maoists also killed a former intelligence unit ‘chief’ of the West Bastar Division, identified as Korsa Jagaram alias Shivaji, at Kottapal village in Bijapur District on January 1, 2015, three years after his surrender to the Police in 2012. Jagaram had been recruited as a Gopniya Sainik (secret informer) by the Bijapur Police after his surrender. Due to his involvement in several prominent attacks on the Security Forces and proximity to top Maoists, he had been a major intelligence source for the Police. “His death is a major loss for us,” an unnamed officer conceded.
According to partial data collected by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since 2005, 70 surrendered cadres have been killed by the CPI-Maoist, till August 2, 2015. These included 14 in 2005, six in 2006, two in 2007, five in 2008, eight in 2009, 12 in 2010, four in 2011, seven in 2012, four in 2013, six in 2014, and two in 2015. The data for 2015 does not include the four Maoist cadres killed in the Bastar region, as they had not yet surrendered.
The current killings are to be seen against the backdrop of the recent surge in surrenders in the Bastar area of Chhattisgarh, considered to be the strongest Maoist base. According to partial data collected by SATP, 251 Maoists have surrendered across India, thus far in 2015. At least 4,245 Left Wing Extremists (LWEs) have surrendered across India since 2005 (data till August 2, 2015).
Crucially, in 2015, eight ‘deputy commanders’ surrendered in Andhra Pradesh; one ‘section commander’ in Maharashtra and one ‘commander’, one Local Guerrilla Squad (LGS) ‘commander’ and one Local Operation Squad (LOS) ‘commander’ in Telangana. However the majority of ‘commander’ rank surrenders have been from Chhattisgarh, with one ‘divisional commander’, three ‘deputy commanders’, five ‘commanders’, one Jan Militia ‘commander’, one LGS ‘commander’, one LOS ‘commander’, one ‘section commander’ and two ‘platoon commanders’. In Jharkhand, there was no commander rank surrender in 2015.
Rattled by the spurt of surrenders in Chhattisgarh, the Maoist leadership, on November 1, 2014, warned journalists working in Chhattisgarh against helping the Police in securing the surrender of Maoist cadres. “We appeal to the journalist brothers to condemn the fake surrenders and stop encouraging those who have deceived the people’s movement. The journalists who support the surrendered Maoists will be termed as ‘anti-people’ by the party,” declared Ganesh Uike, ‘secretary’ of the CPI-Maoist South Regional Committee (SRC), in a press statement.
The Maoist leadership has always despised cadres who surrendered ‘without discussion’, or who plan to ‘run away’, though there is a standing policy of permitting some categories of their cadres to surrender after they have sought the permission of the leadership. Indeed, there have been phases when the surrender policy has been exploited to ‘retire’ aging or ailing cadres, at least some of whom are subsequently found to engage in overground activities in support of the Maoists. In one recent case, where details of some such arrangement emerged after the arrest of a CPI-Maoist cadre, identified as Maansingh alias Arjun (45) from the Pakhanjore area in Kanker District on July 23, 2015. Kanker Superintendent of Police (SP) Jitendra Singh Meena disclosed that Arjun had been associated with the Maoists since 2000 and initially worked as a ‘temporary member’, but was later assigned the task of assembling crude firearms and repairing guns and rifles. Maansingh surrendered on the direction of Maoist leaders, was sent to jail. He was subsequently released on bail, and again joined the underground movement. He was elevated to the rank of ‘commander’ of the Kuli janmilitia (people’s militia) after rejoining the outfit, but due to prolonged illness, was demoted from the position and again tasked with making and repairing weapons till his arrest. The reasons for his earlier surrender are not clear, but this may have been the result of ill health, or an attempt by the Maoist leadership to learn more about the surrender cycle.
Where surrenders are unauthorized, the individuals are initially monitored and subsequently warned, and are also strongly criticized through the media. Maoists eventually eliminate their former comrades especially where they are deemed to have engaged in ‘anti-Party activities’.
While ‘elimination’ is the final solution, a number of prominent surrendered leaders remain under current and significant threat. Thus on June 20, 2007, the Maoists in the Guntur District of then undivided Andhra Pradesh warned five surrendered Maoists to stop hobnobbing with the Police or face ‘dire consequences’. Similarly, on January 30, 2013, the CPI-Maoist Southern Gadchiroli ‘divisional committee’ criticized its former ‘secretary’ Shekhar alias Mallaya and his wife Vijaya, who had surrendered before the Andhra Pradesh Government in 2012. On June 9, 2013, an “internal inquiry commission” of the CPI-Maoist blamed Suchitra Mahato, the surrendered Maoist leader, for the death of ‘politburo member’ Mallojula Koteswara Rao alias Kishenji in an encounter in Junglemahal area of West Bengal in November 2011. Branding her as a “traitor”, the CPI-Maoist central committee approved “retaliation” against those involved in the “conspiracy”. On January 13, 2014, the CPI-Maoist condemned the surrender of the ‘state committee’ member of ‘Dandakaranya special zonal committee’ (DKSZC) GVK Prasad alias Gudsa Usendi alias Sukhdev. Similarly a statement issued by the succeeding spokesperson of the DKSZC, who was also given the nom de guerre Gudsa Usendi, condemned the surrender of DKSZC member Arjun and his wife Ranita before the Police in Telangana on August 1, 2014. The party said the couple could not withstand the “difficult time” faced by the movement.
The pressure of ‘difficult times’ has enormously been compounded by the Central Government’s enticing surrender policy, with generous financial rewards and rehabilitation schemes, which have forced many Maoists to rethink their future. The LWE-affected State Governments have also increased the amount for surrendered cadres. Maharashtra’s “Kaun Banega Lakhpati” scheme, along with a propaganda campaign, peace rallies, dialogue with the locals; Andhra Pradesh Government’s grant of ‘white cards’ [a kind of ration card], housing, LPG subsidy and admission to skill development courses; the Jharkhand Cabinet’s decision to give CPI-Maoist politburo, special area committee and regional bureau members a whopping INR 2.5 million; the Odisha Government’s decision to provide enhanced financial assistance and house building grants at the rate of the Indira Awas Yojna; have all proved crucial for the success of the surrender policy.
On November 29, 2014, the CPI-Maoist admitted that its cadres were deserting the party and “It is true that some of our ‘weak’ cadres are getting attracted towards the bankrupt and corrupt surrender policy of the Government and laying down their arms,” Gudsa Usendi conceded in a Press statement.
The killing of surrendered cadres, especially where the Maoists suspect collusion with the Police, is obviously intended to discourage the wave of surrenders and defections that is worrying the rebel leadership. Crucially, however, it also underlines the failure of the Government to provide a secure environment to those who are deserting the Maoists. While financial rewards and other elements of ‘rehabilitation’ have played a crucial role in encouraging the rising tide of surrenders, if the Maoists succeed in inflicting frequent reprisals on such cadres, the policy will eventually fail.
* Mrinal Kanta Das
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management