The human rights activists claimed that an innocent tribal is being trapped between Chhattisgarh Police and other paramilitary security forces and the Maoists.
At least 70 purported outlawed Communist Party of India (CPI)-Maoist rebels have laid down their arms and surrendered under the ongoing Lon Varratu campaign in the past two months in around 50 villages of the Left-wing Extremism (LWE)-hit Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh.
Under the programme, the activists alleged, the police are forcing innocent tribals to turn themselves in.
Lon Varratu in the tribal Gond dialect means homecoming.
Police said of the 70 surrendered Maoist rebels, 15 had a reward between Rs one and eight lakh on their heads.
On Sunday, Malla, who had an Rs 8-lakh reward on his head and was a military platoon deputy commander, surrendered on his own due to growing pressure from his sisters before the Raksha Bandhan that was celebrated the following day, police said.
Police and the state administration believe that Maoists might come around and shun violence if community awareness and pressure could be mounted.
“The narrative and the landscape have reversed. Earlier, during monsoon, the Maoists would go on a hiring spree, but now it’s the high season for surrender,” said Abhishek Pallava, superintendent of police (SP), Dantewada.
The SP said the Maoists’ anonymous cover has been blown off because of the campaign.
Police claimed that the success of the programme could be gauged from the fact that not even a single poster put up in remote Naxal sensitive villages has been torn.
Soni Sori, a tribal leader, questioned the campaign and claimed that an unsuspecting tribal is caught between the Maoist rebels and the police.
“Who has given the rights to the police to declare a person a Maoist? Tribal farmers have been declared Maoists under this draconian campaign,” alleged Sori.
The poor tribals have nowhere to go, as the police are pressuring them to surrender and the Maoists are torturing them for co-operating with the police, she alleged.
‘Surrender is the key, but it shouldn’t be imposed upon innocent tribal farmers,” she added.
“Tribals are getting an opportunity for the first time to join the social mainstream. We hope they will use this option and surrender in the coming days, as Maoists cadres in respective villages have been reduced to a minority,” he said.
The SP said any tribal villager, who might feel that his name has been erroneously included as a Maoist rebel, has the right to seek redressal.
He reached out to the activists to “share feedback about the campaign and ways to improve it”.
The Dantewada district administration is also providing livelihood opportunities to the surrendered Maoists under the campaign.
“The district administration is providing them with agricultural equipment such as tractor, construction activities, and also work in veterinary and allied departments. Many of these tribals, who have surrendered, are encouraging others to join the social mainstream. The state government’s poverty alleviation scheme for Dantewada will be extended to all the surrendered beneficiaries,” said Deepak Soni, district collector, Dantewada.