A screening and rehabilitation committee set up by the Chhattisgarh government held that 97 per cent of the Naxal surrenders it reviewed in 2016 from the affected districts in the state did not adhere to the definition of “Naxal cadre” and were not eligible for benefits under the Centre or state government’s rehabilitation policy. The committee — comprising senior government, police and paramilitary officers and headed by the Special DG, Anti Naxal Operations and State Intelligence Bureau — receives applications from districts of surrenders made to them, and vets each case on the basis of guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Over the past three years, surrender numbers have shot up in Bastar, with 1,210 listed in 2016. The committee met on two occasions in 2016. At the first, on May 5, it looked at 135 proposals of Naxal “surrenders” between December 2015 and March 2016. Of these, 126 were sent back to the district superintendents of police, asking them to reassess if they qualified as cadre to be rehabilitated under the scheme, with only nine being kept for “further consideration”. At the second meeting, on August 12, 2016, it was found that district police heads in Bastar had sent back only six of the applications that had been returned to them, with an additional two more for the committee to consider.
Eventually, of the nine applications that the committee had initially found fit for further application and the other eight sent to it, it only cleared four as fit for compensation and rehabilitation.
D M Awasthi, the Special DG, Anti Naxal Operations and State Intelligence Bureau, and chairperson of the committee, said the purpose of the surrender and rehabilitation policy was to ensure that “top cadre” found it worthwhile to lay down their arms, and it had to concentrate on “top-quality surrenders”. “This has been communicated to the forces several times, and the focus is not on quantity. In any case, if the top cadres surrender, that will break the backbone of those under them. I urge the Naxals to join the mainstream,” he said.
Admitting that the purpose of the committee was to carefully go into each case given the benefits extended to surrendered Naxals, Awasthi added, “These include a Rs 1.5 lakh grant for rehabilitation, a monthly stipend and money for weapons as well.”
Asked if the extremely low number of applications cleared by the committee was not an admittance that surrender numbers were being trumped up, Awasthi said “this is all semantics”. “In the districts, there are crowds of sypmathisers or supporters that have been emboldened by the increasing presence of the state police, and have declared their allegiance. That is a good sign. Whether they should be called surrenders is only semantics. All I can say, however, is that they do not qualify under the terms of the surrender policy that have been laid out.”
The guidelines for ‘Surrender-cum-rehabilitation of Naxalites in Naxal affected states’, issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, says, “These guidelines are applicable to those Naxalites who surrender with or without arms… The Naxalite who surrenders may be a hardcore, underground Naxalite cadre and a member of a dalam.” It adds, “rehabilitation of surrendered Naxalites should be confined to dalam members and above”, with “other ranks, overground supporters and sympathisers” only to be considered in exceptional cases.
The guidelines further say that the screening committee “should ensure that the surrenderee is a genuine Naxalite and the Naxalite should make a clear confession of all the criminal acts committed by him/her including names of planners and other participants, names of financers, harbourers, couriers, details of the Naxal organizations, arms/ammunition and the property looted/distributed/disposed of by the Naxalite and organisation to which the Naxalite belongs, which may be verified”.