The Surrealism of Surrender

Intimidation, bloated figures mar mass village surrenders as police take precise advantage of CPI Maoist failures in district.

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Fifty-nine villagers from Katapalli village ‘surrendered’ on May 4, at Kiang panchayat, in Mathili block of Malkangiri.

This article appears in The Wire on the 13th of May, 2016.

Recent news reports from Malkangiri, Odisha have often revealed sensational news of hundreds of Naxalites and Naxalite supporters surrendering to the police at both BSF and COBRA camps at Mathili block: from 244 from the villages of Jhadadrasi, Ektaguda and Chamundrasi, to 281 from Sanaguma/Bara, to 117 from Bara alone, to 150 from Temurupalli, Pujariguda and Kukurkunda; whole villages, with women, children and old folk congregate for meetings outside police camps, as local reporters take photo-ops with police personel giving speeches and distributing shirts and saris.

Most recently, ’59 Maoists surrendered’ on the 4th of May, 2016 at the Border Security Force camp at  Kiang, out of which, 25 were children, most below the age of ten, starring aimlessly into space and Waging War against the state by almost drooling on the tarpaulin. The Superintendent of Police, Malkangiri, himself says the media is misrepresenting.

‘People are not surrendering. The militia, Revolutionary People’s Committee, Village Committee Members, Chetna Natya Mandali etc are surrendering. Others are victims of Maoist violence. They have come to us to tell their tales of hardship and demand development in their area. ‘ Says Mitrabhanu Mahapatra, Superintendent of Police, of 2010 batch.

The short history of this goes back to textbook counterinsurgency operations, from the creation of a network of informants by the police, a process made easier by the CPI Maoist’s weaknesses in the area, extenuated by their brutality against adivasi dissensions and that network itself.

Mathili block itself holds very strategic importance as it is directly connected to Darbha valley in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. The block is heavily forested and is inhabited by Koya, Bhunjia, Paroja and Dharua adivasis. There is no massive threat yet of land grab by private corporations and while many non-tribals have grabbed adivasi lands closer to the town of Mathili, it is relatively insulated from them further in the forests. The villages closer to the roads have just recently been electrified, and the main roads are just beginning to be turned from a single lane to a double lane road (by the IVRCL company of the Kolkata flyover collapse infamy). Phone services are intermittent, with Cellone and BSNL signals found comparably deeper into the forests, helping the police immensely in gathering information from their informants.

According to a Ministry of Home Affairs document on LWE division, ‘The Cabinet, in a meeting held on 20.08.2014, has approved mobile towers at 2199 locations, identified by the MHA in consultation with BSNL/State Governments in the 10 LWE affected States. Out of 2199 approved projects, 932 mobile towers put on air as on 31.12.2015.’

Most of the Maoists leaders who function in Mathili from the Darbha Divisional Committee are more Telugu and Koya than they are Odia. In the past year, most of the area commanders in Mathili: Sunadhar, Vinod, and Laxman have been killed (there are conflicting stories about whether Binod is alive or not). And in Silakota, thirteen Maoists from the ‘Kalimela Dalam’ were gunned down in 2013, most presumably in their sleep, the then-SP has gone on record to say: ‘There was no option of asking them to surrender. Even if I had asked them, do you think they would have? They would have shot back at me and we would have suffered casualties. It’s jungle warfare.’

The story then begins with the dalam commander who survived: Erma Kowaisi.

The Man Someone Always Wants To Kill

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Erma s/o Bhima, is a 32 year old Koya adivasi from Goliaguda, in Mathili block, who joined the Maoist village sangam in 2008 and then the armed squad, the dalam in 2012.

Today he is one of the highest-ranked surrenders in Mathili block in Malkangiri and is often seen in every ‘surrender’ meeting in the villages, speaking in Koya, translating for BSF, COBRA and local police. It is his role and knowledge of years of Maoist activities in the block that is helping to identify villages that have started to ‘surrender’ to the police.

Erma never speaks alone, he’s always surrounded by a cohort of BSF commanders who joke about the times they were after him, otherwise all their interactions are affable. Erma claims to have left the Maoist party for personal reasons, mera pitaji bahut gaali diya, tumhara kheti karo, aur biwi ke saath koi nahi tah. And, he adds, ‘the Maoists were killing innocent people.’

He claims that he had never fired his weapon and was only present when his commanders Sunadar and Binod were killing informants. One incident concerns Tonasudra Bhunjia (Udaigiri village) and Doblu Naik (Kopra village) from Kartanpalli Panchayat who were killed by a squad Erma was a part of. This happened in 2013. ‘There was no interrogation, no questioning, they just cut their throats and then shot them.’ Said Erma.

Tonasudra and Dobli had a public altercation with a sangam member: they had asked the sangam member why they should refuse government welfare when it helps people. This led to a physical altercation where the sangam member was beaten up by the villagers. The squad in response killed Tonasudra and Dobli. So much for the right to free association.

When I asked if the Maoists did any development in his area, on ‘jal, jungle, jameen’: he quickly responds that they did not. The Naxalites in the area never had full support of the villagers, with half in favour of the police and the other half with them. Koi ekjoot nahi tha.’

Yet across Mathili block, the soft-spoken and warm Erma was someone everyone seemed to dread.

The villagers of Kartapalli who ‘surrendered’ on the 4th of May would openly say that they feared both Binod and Sunadar. ‘They used to say, ‘If you don’t come for the Maoist meetings, you should leave your villages and go. After they were encountered, even Erma was like this. Meeting mein nahi aayega toh goan chodd ke jaoo.’

In the village of Kartapalli, there are 35 Bhunjia adivasi homes and 7 Koya homes. The entire village was empty, except for one man who did not go to ‘surrender’ as he had a headache but sent his wife and children, and another old Koya woman who just didn’t seem to care. The villagers all returned back from the police camp after lunch (dalma and rice), without any police escort. They then claimed they went to the police as they did not want to live in fear.

It was Erma, they said, who had first organized their village and created a sangam. If there was no Erma, their village would never had any connection to the Maoist party.

Did the Naxalites do any development work for their village? Barely they say.

Evidenced by the labour rates for Tendu patta, which is Rs.120-Rs140 in Mathili, against Rs.150-Rs.170 in Bastar. For Mahua, which across Mathili is Rs.20-Rs.30 per kilo, in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh, the rates are Rs.42-Rs.45, and in Dantewada, the rate is Rs.50. In the village of Kartapalli, three ‘marwaris’ come from Chhattisgarh and buy produce at lower rates. The Maoists write in their pamphlets that the rates should be increased, the villagers say, but then laugh when asked how three contractors come from across the border and pay such low rates.

Did A Protest Turn ‘Surrender’?

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Bondku Kolar is a farmer who also drives a tempo in the village of Barha in Mathili block, closer to the Darbha forests. On the 26th of September, 2015, he was called by the police for a trivial matter concerning his vehicle. He voluntarily turned himself over to the police but would soon realize that it wasn’t a matter of registration, ‘alag maamle ke liye rakha mujhe.

According to him, the police wanted him to turn informant, so they kept him in the Superintendent of Police Quarters for five days. He denied any form of emotional or physical torture, as the police asked him everything from who is rich and who is really poor in his village, to showing him photographs of known Naxalites and even googlemap images of the village. When he refused to cooperate, they finally arrested him on the 1st of October, 2015, for being part of the Maoist team that blew up an Airtel Tower. After he was released on the 9th of December, on a bail bond of Rs.50,000, he was re-arrested a few metres from Malkangiri jail for blowing up the gram panchayat building in Kiang. He was only just released on the 2nd of May, 2016 on a bail bond of Rs.40,000. (Bondku was also one of the eleven people including panchayat samiti members who were taken away by the Maoists in 2015 for a praja court for supporting the police yet they were all let go.)

Bondku is actually a supporter of the ruling Biju Janta Dal and when other local adivasis of the BJD had gone to complain about his arrest, they were asked if the Maoists sent them.

In this background, a COBRA team from Kiang had reached the village at five in the morning on the 13th of March, 2016.

Maga Sodi was sleeping when a soldier asked him to wake up and pulled the sheet off him. Maga Sodi just grumbled and wrapped himself back in his blanket and went back to sleep.

The soldier then got physically rough and tied him up and ransacked his house. ‘They tore some of my children’s books.’ He would say.

‘I told them to let my hands loose, where would I go?’

In the end of the operation, three adivasi boys would be taken away by the COBRA forces. A few hours later the villagers decided to protest by surrounding the BSF camp at Kiang, demanding the release of those taken away, including Bondku. They would spend all night in the camp, and the next day, they would be party to the reports of how ‘117 Maoist supporters had surrendered’.

In the morning, Erma ensured that the three who were taken away were released as they had absolutely no links with the Maoists.

Meanwhile, the Superintendent of Police denies the use of any force, and has said that they had to be taken away such, so it did not look like they were voluntarily surrendering.

Reason in the age of fear

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‘Yeh aadmi bada madarchodd hai’: was the reaction of Sarpanch B of village X (name withheld on request) when he saw the photo of Erma I had taken, ‘Iske darr se log naxali meeting mein jaate the, aur abhi iske dar se log police ko surrender kar rahe hai.’ (They were afraid of him so they went to Maoist meetings and now they’re afraid of him and they go surrender to the police.)

‘90% yaha ke log jo surrender kiya bahut simple hai,’ He continues.

Sarpanch B also lists how the Maoists have killed two of his friends in the village. They were taken away to the mountains, interrogated, murdered and their bodies were left overnight in the village. He claims they have killed dozens of adivasis across the block, from three in Kiang, to one in Salmi, three in Mahupadar, one in Tentilugoma, to two in Kartampalli, to name a few, all killed on accusation of being informants.

At the same time, the police have asked another sarpanch to cooperate with them but he refused. He claims that normal villagers are taken away and detained by the police regularly, across Mathili block, but no one has ever complained: complain karega toh kaun sunega? If we say anything, they will put cases on us. He says. ‘In March 2014, at Kadapada village, two women and two men were kept with the police for five-six days.’

Aur abhi Tulsi pahad ke upar Gugapadar gaon mein naxali goanwalle ko poocha, kaun bola surrender karne ke liye? Aur 10-15 log ko marra woh log.’ (And on the Tulsi mountains, the Naxalites confronted the villagers of Gugapadar and asked them, who asked you to surrender? And they beat 10-15 people.)

_MG_1660Maheshwar Samrat, the sarpanch of Temurupalli, is on the hitlist of the Maoists for facilitating surrenders

Yet one sarpanch, Maheshwar Samrat, of Temurupalli, a Halbi Adivasi, has no fear of reprisal by the Maoists, or is just a fatalist. He has been actively involved in ‘surrenders’ in his panchayat and himself claims he is on their hitlist. ‘If tomorrow they decide to kill me, the police will not be here, they will come only after I am dead.’

‘So why did you decide to support the police when there is no security for you?’ I ask.

‘Uppar walle ka adesh hai.’ He says as he laughs incredulously, raising his hands in the air.

‘Naxali jal, jungle, jameen bolte hai, lekin iska kuch kaam nahi hota tha.’ He says, adding how they don’t let the Gram Sabha meetings take place and instead only want their meetings to take place.

‘Do you think they will change?’

‘They have to understand themselves first what is wrong with them. The Naxals have to realise that they are human and even the person they want to kill is human. Otherwise how will they change? They must forgo the conflict (himsa).  After saying jal, jungle, jameen, how can you harm adivasis?’

Similarly, Sarpanch B would say, ‘Naxal ka niyam thoda theek hai, lekin jo maar deta hai logo ko, woh bahut bekaar hai.Lekin Naxal bhi nahi rehne se, police aadmi se bhi khatra hai.’ (Naxalite policies are a bit alright but when they kill people, it’s not good. But if the Naxals are not there, the police have a free hand.’

Development and Education As Agenda

In the meeting with the BSF and the adivasis of Kartapalli, a BSF commander from Uttarakhand would say, ‘The next time I meet you, I hope to be speaking Koya. Wait, what language do they speak? Halbi? Okay. You have come to our camp to join with us,  yeh hi hamara adesh hai. It is important that we trust one another. It would be wonderful that if you leave the Naxalites and come towards us then in the long run it will benefit you. That’s all I will say now, the next time I hope to be speaking to you in your own language.’

The BSF commander from Bihar would add: ‘First when we used to come into your villages, you used to run away from us. In the 4-5 months, we did operations there, and you know the Naxalites have stopped coming… are they still coming? That you are coming towards us, it is what we are grateful for. Let there be development in your villages, let your children study. Is there a road coming in the village? Your children will study and go to Kiang, Govindpalli and Malkangiri.’

When I asked the villagers of Kartapalli if they have a school, they respond that they do, and that their teacher Sushanto Behera comes everyday. They don’t have a road yet and they have one boy who has done his 12th. In Kiang, where there is a BSF camp as well as a COBRA camp, the teacher has not come for six months. ‘When it comes to development, from the BDO, the collector to those in the education department, I have sent complaints about our absent teacher but no one is responding.’ Says Somaru Naik, a LLB pass and the sarpanch of Kiang.

At the same time, Haldar Poojari, who is the state president of the Adivasi Mahasabha questioned state promises of development. ‘They got all these people to surrender to the ‘mainstream’, so they can get development. So what development? This area does not have irrigation, we depend on rains. So irrigate us, there was the Sapthadhar project, now do it. Give us our pattas, so many of us don’t have our pattas.’

‘Many adivasis here are not even called adivasis here by the state.’ He continues, ‘the Dhurwa and the Kondareddis near Chitrakonda, they are called adivasis elsewhere but not in this state. So they don’t get ST certificates to study.’

_MG_1590Kondareddi adivasis and Dhurwa adivasis who are not considered adivasis in Odisha, protesting outside the Malkangiri collector’s office, demanding ST status on the 3rd of May, 2016

Yet Rajesh Madari of the village of Temurupalli, who is a graduate of BA in Arts, only found himself a job in the panchayat gram sabha, earning Rs.1000 per month. He details how most of the adivasis who graduated with him are now SPO’s. Maheshwar Samrat, his sarpanch adds how educated Bhunjia youth do not see their aspirations in the CPI Maoist movement.

‘There are no other jobs for adivasis here except SPO’s.’ Even Somaru Naik would say, adding ‘Three-four years ago the rules changed where a lot of people who’re graduates from Bhubaneshwar are getting jobs in services here. Not adivasis from here.’

The only work, when un-irrigated lands receive rains and farming can continue.

Meanwhile, the villagers of Katapalli laugh as they say how Erma taught them songs of the Naxalites, ‘aur phir bhaag gaya.’

Post-Script

_MG_1767The police outpost at Mahupadar in Mathili block was blown up by members of the CPI Maoist on May 30, 2009. The three police constables escaped unhurt.

The question arises that if the CPI Maoist is incapable of maintaining a mass base in the area directly adjacent to their bases in Bastar, then how are they capable of containing this senseless violent  insurgency and keep the ambitious claim of capturing state power? Mathili is a region where they do not even speak to all adivasi tribes, let alone the millions of oppressed: the Bhunjia’s repeatedly claimed that the Koyas would predominately go to them, their squads spoke in Koya or Hindi, not Halbi. Most villagers even claimed that most of the people who are going to the police to ‘surrender’ are Bhunjias and not Koyas.

In twelve years the CPI Maoist of Mathili have seemed to have alienated the Bhunjia population that had to face state repression. And from across the region, the police would create informants through force, carrot, stick, noose and manipulation and the Naxalites would kill them. In 2010 in Chitrakonda, I met the adivasi leader of the Malkangiri Cut Off Area Tribal Union, Komalu Anakum, who was living in fear of the police because his mass agitations for basic amenities were being misconstrued as Maoist activities. Today he’s a ghost, murdered by the Maoists in 2013 because they thought he was an informant.

The Maoists can claim they do this to protect their leadership, but the state will keep on making informants: the state will do what a state does. No matter what pretenses they can keep up in different areas, counterinsurgency, to them, is not compatible with human rights; habeas corpus ki maa ki jai, and to them, no Supreme Court order, no international covenant on human rights which India is a party to, and no legal recourse can ever interfere with their intelligence gathering. This is why they despise human rights activists.

Intelligence is their dogma. And the war is fought on the grounds of intelligence, details from the MHA reveal it: from the years 2011-2016(a.of March) across the states, 494 LWE cadres were killed (this doesn’t count the innocent people killed or how many are killed in fake encounters), 541 security personel killed, yet 679 ‘informants’ or those deemed ‘informants’ have also been killed.

And what would be the Maoist response to reclaim this block, if they wanted to? The killing of those who helped set up the surrenders? Is the only response to state violence, more violence against the population in the form of the killing of informants and dissenters? How many Ermas have to live in fear by repressing an entire population, hoping in the annihilation of the CPI Maoist? Has the killings of informants become so casual? Is one man’s atrocity different from another’s atrocity?

In 2010, there was a large red stupa for slain Maoists Sudhakar Reddy and Comrade Venkataih built overlooking the Cut-off area. Today, there is a BSF camp behind it, and the stupa is coloured Tiranga.

When this all ends, if it ever does, will there be a stupa for the Komalus of Dandakaranya? Who will build it?

Interview with Malkangiri Superintendent of Police Mitrabhanu Mahapatra

This interview appears in The Wire on the 14th of May, 2016.

Mitrabhanu Mahapatra is the 31 year old Superintendent of Police of the 2010 batch, who has been posted in Malkangiri district since 2014. The Maoists have described him as ‘strongly against revolution and specially trained/chosen to control the revolution’. He is central to reports of the large numbers of ‘surrenders’ in Malkangiri.

Trained as an engineer in NIT Rourkela, he is a self-identified nationalist whose lenghtiest tweets consider the JNU crisis, commenting on how JNU students ‘celebrated’ when 76 jawaans were killed in an ambush in 2010, or how they are members of the bourgeoisie who also want to simultaneously abolish it. He has even tweeted: ‘How futile is knowledge learning and free Mind it breeds, if it doesn’t inculcate nationalism! Burn 1000 JNUs for one nation #JNUCrackdown.’

And, ‘Some universities produce scientists, engineers, historians, philosophers & teachers;some others produce professional students #JNUCrackdown’

His JNU twitter feed aside, he has also tweeted on the surrenders. Mr.Mahapatra was kind enough to respond in detail via email on the surrenders in Malkangiri.

  1. Do you think there is any compatibility with human rights, vis-a-vis habeas corpus, and counterinsurgency operations? Can the police function with both? Counterinsurgency’s dogma is the gathering of information via any means necessary, so how is that compatible with rights?

Counter insurgency is a war. Wars can be fought ethically or otherwise. I do believe, when counter insurgency operations don’t respect human rights, the operations will be bound to fail. And by human rights I mean the actual right (to live with dignity) of the man on ground and not the slogans of the single malt sipping glitterati sitting In their cosy rooms at Delhi. When the police system matures the allegations of violating human right will not come. Our forces don’t beat people in villages. Rape by security forces is never heard of in Malkangiri. We don’t have a secret chamber to detain people. And still we have been fairly successful in CI ops.

Gathering information by any means is a tricky phrase. We don’t gather information by any means. The only mean that we employ is voluntary disclosure. Most of my trusted and best informers are common man who have been living in interior villages, utterly disgusted with the CPI Maoist and want to live peacefully. They are not working for money but for peace. I don’t believe in paying people for information. That will make them vulnerable. We don’t use telephone tapping because that is not legally permissible here. We don’t coerce people to give information because that will lead to false information. We don’t buy information because that will expose the source and he will be killed by Maoist. We get information because people support us. So I believe CI ops is not anti- human rightist.

  1. There are allegations that many of the surrenders happen out of fear of both the police, and because the Naxalites have withdrawn from some areas. Would you like to comment?

I already described to you what surrenders mean. Be it police or Maoist, the fulcrum is people. Insurgency needs public support as its fuel, we need public support to wean them away from the Maoists. In any area there will be the state, so also the anti- state. People are the power factor. The side where the people go, it will be powerful. So both sides need to win public support. I guess we fared better and people came to us. It is not fear of police that they are surrendering. They have been afraid of police since last hundred years. Laxman Nayak (adivasi freedom fighter) was brutally assaulted, jailed and finally hanged by police in 1945. People had been brutally tortured and murdered by police both in pre and post independence era. At that time they did not surrender. Why they are doing now? Because we are portraying ourselves as their friends and guides not their masters or tormentors. In Podia or Mathili the police station has become a single point of contact for all the problems of people. Out of 100 people coming to station in Mathili 80 will come for issues not related to police, like ration card, Adhar card, caste certificate, education of children etc. This is because they trust us more than a BDO. Today in those areas police is not hated. They came to police because they love us. And Naxals have withdrawn because militia have surrendered, people are openly joining the mainstream, coming to police stations, going to Block offices etc. Today, Podia dalam is disbanded because, the militia base of Podia area has en masse surrendered.

  1. A lot of people fear Erma Kowaisi, the once Naxal. How did you manage to convince him to work this well for you? Is there any guarantee of his security? 

Irma Kawasi of Goliaguda was a terror. Govt of Odisha had declared a reward of one lakh on him. Luckily, after some hard work and some smart work he surrendered. How I made him surrender is a part of tradecraft I can’t reveal. Today, he is working with us because he is indebted to us that we didn’t kill him; he had directly or indirectly participated in murder of at least 10 villagers and at least 20 police men (in lighter vein Mathili is no lawless Bastar). We extended all support to him. We made him understand the futility of Maoist movement. He is a smart man. He understands quickly. His safety is a big concern for me. He is now staying within the PS premise. We have given him a residential quarter. He is going to bring his wife also. He will get a land as per the surrender policy. He is happy. But I will be happy when he can go to village and live there. His village militia had already surrendered. There is no threat as such in his village also. But I am playing safe.

  1. The villagers of Barha claim they had gone to protest against the ‘taking away’ of three of their villagers and then ended up surrendering? Is this true? 

Barha was one of the strongholds of the CPI Maoist. In early 2014 two people were arrested from the same village with multiple charges of murder and arson. There were few more such elements in the village. This year we ” took away” three of the strong militia members. We make them understand the futility of Maoist violence and “sent them back” to their villages. They influenced the other militia members. Then they surrendered. I will explain two points.

A.Taking away is not abducting. Off the record I can say, they wanted to be taken away because they can’t be seen before the Maoist to have willingly surrendered. Had they known other militia would  also surrender, they might not have wanted to be taken away. They wanted to surrender to us clandestinely and not to work for Maoist. Hence the ‘taking away’.

B.You might be hinting that we made them surrender. What did we do? We made them understand the benefits of not being associated with Maoist. We have to sell the idea of surrender. Mind you, Government of Odisha, unlike Chhattisgarh, does not have a policy for militia or VCM or CNM etc. Only full time party cadre are covered. After surrender these militia won’t get any financial benefit whatsoever. In such a scenario, selling the idea is difficult. We make them understand some obvious benefits like, now as cases are on them and as they are wanted by police they can’t come to hospital or shanties. ‘Surrender and you can lead your life freely. We won’t arrest you.’ We even told we will facilitate their mundane work at various govt agencies. In last one and half year of my tenure I have helped thousands of people (of such people) getting death certificates for their family members, getting caste certificates etc. You won’t believe getting a caste certificate or death certificate is frustratingly difficult and prohibitively expensive for them. What I mean to say, you have to sell the idea of surrender. Then only they will convene a meeting in the village, discuss the proposition of surrender and then willingly surrender.

  1. Many of the reports in the media claim massive numbers of villagers surrendering, but many of them who are children are also counted as Naxalite sympathizers. Is the media misreporting?

Surrender is a misnomer. In Mathili block alone we have met more than 1200 people in last two months. They all did not surrender. Only he can surrender who has criminal cases against his name, or who has been involved in criminal activities or who is an active member of CPI Maoist. These people are not. Media is misreporting grossly. Are they sympathisers? No, we consider them as victims of Maoist violence. They don’t surrender. They come to police / admin to demand their constitutional rights. You will ask why this surrender fiasco. In each village Maoist have formed village committees. There will be some village committee members, some militia members and some Chetana Natya Mandali members. In an average village, their number will be around 5. These people surrender. For example in Kotapalli out of 70 odd people only 3 VCM and 3 militia members were present. Media needs masala. Six Maoists surrendering will not make a big news but 70 does. Why the Mao victims come? Partly the VCM and militia bring them for their own safety and partly they come to show their solidarity with government. Out of all such 1200 or so people 230 odd are VCM, militia , CNM members or DKMS members. Many times people bring children requesting us to get their wards admitted to better schools. Sometimes old people come for a free medical check up. We treat them as victims of Maoist violence and not sympathisers.

  1. I attended the surrender at Katapalli in Kiang recently, why was there no representation from the BDO’s office or collector’s office?

Collector’s representative or BDO don’t come. They have their own problems. Collector has his own problems. BDOs have their own. It’s sad but that’s reality. Did we call them? No. Why? The saga of mass surrender (I use the word surrender for lack of a better word) started last year with Silakota in Podia block. You might remember in 2013 there was a big encounter at Silakota where 13 Maoists died. Silakota was kind of HQ for Podia dalam. The militia, VCM etc of Silakota surrendered, collector, PD DRDA, PA ITDA attended the meeting. Promised Silakota to make a model village. Within 7 days villagers from ten more villages came. We religiously invited civil admin representatives. They started avoiding it gradually because people asked them difficult questions about development. I also pity them that they have to overcome a lot of hurdles and humongous misdeeds of their predecessors.

But then they have to do it pro-actively. Maoist even started questioning, seemingly teasing, ‘where is the development the S.P. promised?”

I said, to hell with this. For Mathili block programs we rarely invited collector etc. But many a time the block education officer and one doctor either from civil admin or CAPF attended it. We started facilitating small things through lower rung admin staff. For example we have admitted 46 or so children all from interior areas of Tulsi mountain into various tribal residential schools with the help of block education officer. One of our officers has become their local guardian who checks them regularly. We kind of adopted those kids. We try to meet their utility needs, apart from educational needs, we are conducting medical camps. We are buying their farm produces at a fair price, more than what will they get from a shandy. We take their services as a daily wage labourers in our police housing projects. NREGA is defunct you know! Today you visit Salmi, and you will see 70 local tribal men and women are working as construction labourers at our housing projects with better wages and relaxed work timings. There is almost no distress migration from Salmi GP area, this summer. However, the battle is not police’ alone. Civil admin is an active part of it, but the process will always be slow.

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