Naxalites, left-wing extremists, who have surrendered in the southern Indian State of Andhra Pradesh have become a menace for some time.
On July 25, 2003, the putrefied dead body of Sammi Reddy, former Karimnagar District Committee Member of the People’s War Group (PWG) and an important Surrendered PWG (SPWG), was recovered from a village pond in Krishna district; it was subsequently identified on July 28. Reddy was abducted in far off Hyderabad, the State capital, on July 18, while on his way to attend court in connection with a criminal offence. He was dealing in real estate business and had used strong-arm methods against business rivals. He also attempted to kill one of them. The mistress of a SPWG and one other SPWG militant, Jadala Nagaraju, are suspected to be behind Sammi Reddy’s, killing following differences over some cash transactions. There are other theories, too.
Earlier, Reddy and Naeemuddin, another SPWG, killed a civil rights activist on November 23, 2000 for allegedly persuading the PWG leadership to eliminate them for allegedly being police informers. Both were vocal critics of their former colleagues. At Naeemuddin’s instance, his brother Aleemuddin and some others had killed yet another SPWG cadre, Eedanna, in early June 1998, for molesting their sister. At that time, Naeemuddin, detained in prison, accused the PWG of inaction in the face of Eedanna’s misdemeanour. Eedanna, former Aler squad commander, had killed Paradesi Naidu, the Superintendent of Police, Mahabubnagar district on November 14, 1993. Later he surrendered and opened a provision store with the rehabilitation money the Government gave him. Simultaneously, he indulged in extra-judicial activities.
Surrendered Naxalites often use muscle power for business gains. They run protection rackets and deal in real estate. In Karimnagar district, some of them had become a land Mafia, until the security forces (SFs) put them down. Kattula Sammaiah, a SPWG who died in a fire accident on board a flight to Colombo, is another well known example of a SPWG militant becoming a law unto himself, while operating in Hyderabad.
Three reasons explain the working of such elements. One, unless they have a criminal bent of mind they cannot take recourse habitually to strong-arm tactics. A proclivity to violence however draws them closer to the Naxalites. Having committed violent acts they can hardly give up this habit after surrendering.
Further, surrendered Naxalites entertain the notion that violence is rewarding. Incidentally, a group of surrendered cadres of the Janashakthi faction were involved in a drunken brawl in Hyderabad a few weeks ago. In fact, a survey conducted by official sources in Warangal district, Andhra Pradesh, held that a mere two per cent of the cadre joins the rebels’ ranks for ideological reasons.
Two, the SFs are either complacent or are in league with them, probably because they are a mine of information or for other reasons. The surrendered Naxalites show off their intimate knowledge of, and access to information on, the movements of their former colleagues, their methods, hiding places, weapons and cash dumps.
Three, the rehabilitation policy of the Government is severely flawed and is tardily implemented. The Government gives five thousand rupees to every surrendering cadre right at the moment of surrender. Thereafter, they are eligible to receive five hundred thousand rupees towards rehabilitation. However, bureaucratic red tape often delays its disbursement.
The police in Karimnagar persuaded 46 Janashakthi Naxalites to join the mainstream. They had surrendered with their weapons to the Chief Minister in Hyderabad on April 28, 2002. This is for the first time in India that Naxalites have surrendered with their weapons. The Government has, to date, rehabilitated only 20 of them, after enormous delay. Therefore, some of the remaining militants have either gone underground or have established contact with their former colleagues. Thus, the gains from the efforts of a section of the SFs in countering extremism were frittered away.
The delay in rehabilitation persuades the surrendered Naxalites that the Government fails to keep its promises, and that they were justified in joining the Naxalites to fight the State. In fact, a detained SPWG militant told this author that he was being imprisoned for an unduly long period, even after he surrendered. He passionately asked, “Do you think we are some sort of man eaters?” He had killed at least 150 innocent persons.
There are those who contend that surrender and rehabilitation encourages extremism. But, others hold that surrenders cause less damage than ‘liquidation’. The Government vacillates between these two lines of thought.