The decision of the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) to induct at least 5,000 former Maoists into the party has reopened the debate on their rehabilitation in the state. While the families of victims of Naxal violence,especially police personnel,are questioning the induction of those with a criminal background into the party,revolutionary thinkers and activists are supporting the move,though they feel it should be a political decision of a party that has a clear agenda and strategy.
C Lakshmi,widow of Venkateshwara Reddy,who was killed by Naxals along with MLA Narsi Reddy and seven others in October 2005,says any political party should think twice before opening doors to former Maoists. Rehabilitating those who have renounced arms and have served their punishment according to the law is fine. But inducting killers into the party is wrong. They are responsible for the killing of thousands of civilians,police officers and government officials, says Lakshmi,who is a Revenue Department official.
However,Vara Vara Rao,revolutionary thinker,writer and poet feels that former Maoists who have been living in societys margins should be given a change to join the mainstream.
But rehabilitating them is not easy. It is a decision that has been taken by a Government and it should be a political decision. Though Praja Rajyam has initiated a move to induct former Maoists into the party,it doesnt have much significance. Most of the surrendered and former Maoists that the PRP is reaching out to are not known names. PRP president Chiranjeevi has stated that he is never going to invite the Maoists for talks,but if they want to talk to him they are welcome. This betrays political immaturity. Even Chandrababu Naidu never spoke like that. Chiranjeevis brother Pavan Kalyan,who is campaigning for the PRP,says he will talk to the police and request them to withdraw cases against former Maoists. The PRP is not in power and it has not been able to spell out what kind of a rehabilitation policy it is aiming at, Vara Vara Rao says.
Balladeer Gadar has already cautioned against any ill-conceived policy like the existing one that has ensured some surrendered and reformed Naxals becoming rich through land deals based on extortion,while most never got any benefits assured by the rehabilitation policy.
Just as the TDP forced other parties to take a stand on Telangana,the PRPs move to introduce the former Maoists into mainstream politics is also forcing other parties to declare their intentions. TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu,during whose tenure the Naxal movement was crippled with encounter killings and a massive police crackdown,says the Maoists should be rehabilitated with welfare schemes. It is quite a turnaround for Naidu,who himself escaped a landmine blast that the Naxals had triggered while his convoy was passing through Alipiri near Tirupati in October 2003.
Former Maoists should be allow to join the mainstream,but first the law should take its own course with those who have serious criminal cases against them, TDP spokesperson N Rajakumari says. The TDP which banned the Naxal groups had invited them for talks,but they did not respond.
After the Congress came to power in 2004,Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy called off combing operations,withdrew anti-Naxal paramilitary force operations,and lifted ban on the parties,besides declaring a ceasefire. APCC president D Srinivas says the Governments rehabilitation policy gave many Maoists an incentive to surrender and embrace normal life. It is a continuous process, he says.
Praja Rajyam Party has decided to admit as members at least 5,000 former Maoists who had relinquished arms a decade ago. This is part of the partys endeavour to enable the former Maoists to join mainstream politics,as the party views the Naxal movement as a social problem rather than a law and order issue.
PRP spokesperson P Mitra Reddy says while a declaration is mandatory for all the ex-Maoists that there are no criminal cases pending against them,the party is also conducting a background check on its own. We will declare a rehabilitation policy for them after consultations, he says.