Phulchand Topno, 25, is one of the lucky ones. It came after a month’s confinement within the premises of an erstwhile jail and the payment of Rs 1 lakh, obtained after desperately pledging the family’s land to a neighbour in Nichitpur village in Khunti district’s Torpa block. All that effort now seems like a waste, for when Phulchand became a police constable, it was not through those channels.
Phulchand is a victim of what can be called a “surrender scam” that was allegedly perpetrated by Ravi Bodra, a former Military Intelligence official, with the knowledge of CRPF officers. A resident of the same village as Carolina Kerketta, one of the accused, Phulchand claims to have paid coaching centre owner Dinesh Prajapati to secure a job in the Army, paramilitary or the state police through illegal means.
Not only was he conned, he was made to pose as a left-wing extremist and “surrender” before CRPF officials. “Carolina used to come here often asking us to pay the full amount as fast as possible,” said Phulchand’s mother Monica Topno. The newly inducted constable is now posted in Giridih district.
Not everyone allegedly conned was rewarded the way Phulchand was. This reporter has met 18 victims of the scam or their relatives, and all of them had to either sell or pledge their land – adivasi land is not easily sold because of tenancy laws – or possessions to pay alleged scamster Bodra, who once worked for the MI in Assam to help secure the surrender of Bodo militants.
Everyone who was a student at the time of the incident – late 2011 to mid-2012 – dropped out and has not taken up studies since. Probably the reason Phulchand got employed was because he was the only graduate among the 18.
Laxman Singh, who had lost his elder brother to an attack by LWE organisation PLFI, was barely 17 when he dropped out of the first year of his plus-two course, sold his motorcycle and paid Rs 2.5 lakh, allegedly to Prajapati, for what was promised to be a backdoor entry to the CRPF. “We were kept at his coaching centre for 10 days in September 2011, at the end of which Ravi Bodra came. He was introduced as an Army colonel,” said Laxman. The eight of them at the centre were taken in a car to the old jail in Ranchi. He says there were about 150 people housed in the erstwhile medical dormitories behind the cellblock then; by the time Rohit Kumar got there in the winter of the same year, that number had swelled to 550 across four or five large halls. “Only when Bodra told the CRPF officials that we were Naxali did we understand we were being made to pretend as if surrendering,” said Laxman. It took him five continued…