By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On July 3, 2019, two Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres, identified as Madkam Deva (22) and Muchaki Deva (23), surrendered before the Police at Konta Police Station in the Sukma District of Chhattisgarh.
In their statements, the duo disclosed that they decided to snap ties with the Maoists as they were disappointed with the “hollow” Maoist ideology and harsh forest life. Madkam Deva was carrying a reward of INR 100,000 on his head.
On June 25, 2019, six CPI-Maoist cadres, including a ‘squad member’, surrendered before the Officer on Special Duty (OSD), B. Krishna Rao, in the Visakhapatnam District of Andhra Pradesh. All the six stated that Maoist leaders had forcibly inducted them into the party, and after the Police reached out to them, they came forward and surrendered.
On June 17, 2019, six CPI-Maoist cadres, including two women ‘commanders’, surrendered before the Police in the Dumka District of Jharkhand. The woman Maoist ‘commanders’, identified as PC Di aka Pirisila aka Sawarui Devi and Kiran Di, each carrying a reward of INR 500,000 on their heads, surrendered along with an AK-47 and a carbine.
Two others who surrendered, Sidho Marandi, ‘area commander’, and Premshila, carried a reward of INR 100,000 each on their heads. Marandi surrendered a carbine and Premshila a pistol. The other two surrenderees were identified as Sukhlala Dehri (deposited a pistol) and Bhagat Singh Kiskku (deposited A rifle).
Among the reasons given for these recent incidents of surrender was disillusionment with the Maoist ideology. In addition, the rebels also cited atrocities, discrimination, sexual harassment, mindless violence, bad health and an urge to lead a normal life by joining the mainstream.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 157 LWE elements have surrendered in 40 incidents reported from six States across India since the beginning of 2019 (data till July 7, 2019). During the corresponding period in 2018, at least 286 Left Wing Extremist (LWE) elements had surrendered in 45 incidents.
Another 194 LWE cadres surrendered in 40 incidents in the remaining period of 2018. A total of 8,839 LWE cadres have surrendered in 878 incidents since 2010.
Number of Surrendered Naxalites 2005 – 2019*
|No of Incidents of Surrender||58||69||66||75||140||110||143||92||85||40|
|No of Surrender||149||198||415||1324||648||1686||3239||543||480||157|
|* Data till July 7, 2019, Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP)|
Latest data made available by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) states that at least 5,150LWE cadres have surrendered since 2010.
Number of Surrendered Naxalites 2005-2018*
|No of Surrender||265||394||445||282||676||570||1442||685||391||–|
|* Data till August 31, 2018, Source: Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India|
Significantly, according to the SATP database, out of 8,839 surrendered LWE cadres since 2010, 371 were leadership elements. These included at least three national level leaders, 39 State/ Regional level leaders, and 329 local level leaders. In 2019, at least 14 LWE leadership elements have surrendered across the country, including one national level leader, two State/ regional level leaders and 11 local level leaders (data till July 5).
At the time of its formation in 2004, CPI-Maoist reportedly had a 16-member ‘politburo’, the outfit’s highest decision-making body, and a 34-member ‘central committee (CC)’, the second highest decision-making body in the outfit. The ‘CC’ included all the 16 members of the ‘politburo’ and another 18 members. At least eight members were added to the CC over time. Of these 42 top ranking leaders, two ‘CC members’ have surrendered, another 13 were arrested, while five have been killed in encounters with the Police. Another three died due to illness: Anuradha Ghandy aka Janaki (on April 12, 2008), Sushil Roy (on June 18, 2014) and B. Narayan Sanyal aka Bijoy Dada (on April 17, 2017). The whereabouts of the remaining 19 are not known.
‘CC member’ Lanka Papi Reddy aka Ranganna, surrendered on February 2, 2008. He refused to talk on the internal differences among the leaders in the party and cited ill health for his surrender. He also stated that his wife would soon leave the party and join him. Saroja, a ‘commander’ of the Jimalgatta dalam (armed squad of Maoists), was arrested in 2009.
The second ‘CC’ member to surrender is Oggu Buriyari Satwaji aka Sudhakar (53). He surrendered on February 13, 2019, along with his wife Madhavi aka Neelima aka Padma. Madhavi, a member of the Bihar-Jharkhand Special Area Committee (BJSAC) of the CPI-Maoist, was an expert in computer operations and was looking after the accounts of the party. At the time of surrender, Sudhakar stated,
The way the CPI (Maoist) leadership in Bihar and Jharkhand functions is the opposite of how a body with revolutionary ideology should work. It is anything but people-centric and runs like a criminal gang.
Over the years, due to the lack of adherence to their declared ideology, the Maoists have been finding it difficult to recruit new cadres. On February 13, 2019, Telangana Director General of Police (DGP) M. Mahendar Reddy disclosed that the CPI-Maoist was left with hardly 500 members and was gradually losing mass support. He further noted, “Only the eastern regional bureau (Bihar and Jharkhand) has some activity and there is no fresh recruitment.”
To bring Maoists into the mainstream, the Central Government has chalked out guidelines for surrender-cum-rehabilitation of the rebels in the LWE-affected States,keeping in mind the specific geographical and social landscape. The State Governments have their own surrender and rehabilitation policies, which the Central Government supplements by reimbursing the expenditure incurred on rehabilitation under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme for LWE-affected States.
To boost the surrender process, the LWE-affected States have inked different initiatives. For instance, Telangana Police on May 17, 2019, offered to withdraw cases against Maoist cadres who opt to surrender under an initiative named Operation Surrender.
Meanwhile, the Government is trying to take the help of surrendered Maoists during offensive operations against the rebels on the ground. An unnamed senior Police officer from Jharkhand disclosed,
We’ve chalked out a comprehensive plan to deal with the Maoists. We’ll take inputs from surrendered rebels while plotting our strikes in their hotbeds. These rebels laid down their arms in the quest of returning to their normal lives.
Successful counter-insurgency (CI) operations have weakened the LWEmovement, resulting in the containment the extremists. Since 2010, CI operations have resulted in the killing of at least 174 LWE leadership elements. These included three national level, 24 State level and 147 local level leaders. Another 604 LWE leadership elements, including 18 national level, 188 State level leaders and 398 local level leaders, have been arrested during this period.
The Maoists are undoubtedly a worried lot, suffering mounting losses over the past years in their erstwhile areas of dominance across the country. This is an opportunity for the State and Central leaderships to take advantage of their disorientation,through effective policies, development, the outreach of public goods, and restoring governance and public services.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management