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Get 500 Naxals of 1,600 in Dantewada to surrender — Chhattisgarh’s new rehabilitation plan

The Chhattisgarh Police plans to scale up its new ‘transparent’ Lon Varratu campaign for rehabilitation of Naxals if it works in Dantewada.

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Raipur: The Chhattisgarh Police plans to ensure the surrender of at least 500 Naxals from Dantewada district of Bastar region by the end of this year under its new target-driven Naxal rehabilitation programme that promises to be transparent.

According to senior police officials, around 1,600 Naxals in the rural areas of Dantewada have been identified for rehabilitation. Around 200 of these are armed fighters. Details of these Naxals were gathered by the police via a large survey carried out in all the villages of the district and information received from the Maoists who have already surrendered.

On the basis of this information, the police launched a new campaign, ‘Lon Varratu’ (Come back home), in Dantewada on 26 June, and is now appealing to these Naxals to surrender, said the officials. The plan is to see if the new approach works and then scale it up.

So far, 58 Naxals have surrendered under the campaign against a target of 500 until the end of the year. Activists in the region have welcomed the move.

What the campaign aims to achieve

Sundarraj P., inspector general (IG), Bastar Range, who is spearheading the campaign in the area said, “The Lon Varratu campaign is a special initiative of the government and police forces under which misguided villagers are encouraged to return to their homes and start new lives with the help of the government.”

He highlighted that unlike the past surrender policy, it’s not necessary for Maoists who surrender under this campaign to be recruited in the police force only.

“Now employment opportunities are being provided to them as per their own free will. Bank loan arrangements have also been made with the help of other departments. The initial results of Lon Varratu are extremely positive,” he said.

For the first time, self-help groups are also being created in the region to rehabilitate Naxals.

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How it came about

Dantewada Superintendent of Police (SP) Abhishek Pallav said there was no authentic information about the exact number of Naxals in the state until now.

“Be it the courts or commission of inquiry, all of them always had estimated figures. Dantewada is the first district where we have identified 1,600 Naxalites from all the 35-40 Naxal-affected villages, out of which 500 are targets for surrender by the end of the year. This was the first requirement of Lon Varratu,” said Pallav.

He said a detailed profile of Naxalites working in the district has been prepared after interrogation of surrendered cadres and verifying the same in respective villages.

“Pamphlets bearing names of these Naxalites are being pasted on the walls of their respective gram panchayats, the government buildings and also on their own houses with an appeal from them to come back. Flex boards of Naxalites having reward against their names are also being put up,” he said.

Various teams of the security forces are also visiting the villages and urging residents to inspire these men to abdicate the path of Maoism and join the mainstream, said Pallav.

Of the 150 gram panchayats in Dantewada, 20 panchayats are under complete control of the Maoists, referred to as red areas. Another 30 panchayats are called grey areas, where the security forces and the Maoists both remain in contact with the villagers. The remaining 100 panchayats are known as green areas, where the state police and administration enjoy full authority.

“The huge numbers of both armed and unarmed Naxalites shows that the war is still far from getting finished,” Pallav said, adding that copies of the Naxals’ profiles would also be circulated among public representatives to motivate them to surrender.

‘Transparent campaign’

Chhattisgarh Police officials say Lon Varratu is a completely transparent campaign because the villagers have already been informed about the target of this campaign.

“In the past whenever the police used to take tough action against Naxalites, we were accused of killing, torturing and brutalising the common villagers. Huge protests used to take place in the aftermath of arrest or killing of the naxalites. All of this used to be very embarrassing for us,” Pallav said.

“But now the villagers have been provided with all the relevant information in advance. Pamphlets are being posted in Naxalites’ homes and an acknowledgement receipt is also being received from their family members. Due to this, in case of any action against the Naxalites, no one can call them ordinary villagers,” he said.

Another police official who didn’t wish to be named said due to this level of transparency, the Naxals are not being able to mislead the villagers anymore.

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Pilot project, different from Salwa Judum

Lon Varratu is being implemented in Dantewada as a pilot project, the officials said. It will be closely examined until the end of this year. If the results are on expected lines, then this campaign to reconnect Naxals with the mainstream will be implemented in other Maoist-affected areas of the state too.

“We hope that by the year end, over 500 Naxalites will join the mainstream under this campaign. Once this target is achieved, a separate attempt will be made to ensure surrender of the remaining Naxalites. It is also possible that others might come along with these 500 on their own,” said Pallav.

Officials also insisted that this programme is quite different from Salwa Judum, an anti-Naxal campaign launched in 2005.

Salwa Judum was an armed battle against Naxals and lacked a clear plan. There was no ploy to weaken the frontal organisations that propagated the ideology of the Naxalites, said the officials.

“Under Lon Varratu, the government is trying to present its case against their frontal constituents, who have promoted Maoist ideology, by saying that till date the Maoists have not given them any facilities. Instead, they have only put their family members in deeper trouble,” he said.

‘Welcome campaign’

Speaking about this Chhattisgarh Police campaign, activist Shubhranshu Chaudhary, who works extensively in the state’s Naxal-affected areas said, “This is a good and innovative experiment which should be welcomed. Still right now it would be too early to comment about its success.”

He said most of the Naxals who have surrendered so far are lower-ranked Naxals. “However, even if 500 lower-ranked Naxals surrender by the end of the year, it will be a big success,” added Chaudhary.

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