BHUBANESWAR: Discrimination in the ranks basing on nativity as well as ethnicity seems to be driving Maoist cadres back to the mainstream in Odisha.
At least three members who gave themselves up before the police in Malkangiri and Koraput districts on Sunday had similar tales to tell.
One of the three who surrendered before DGP Abhay was Sabita Podiami who had spent 20 years in the Maoist movement.
The 35-year-old was commander of Palachalam local organisational squad under Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee. She was a seasoned cadre and involved in attacks that caused death of over 25 security personnel in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.
“Sabita served under Ramanna, Secretary of Kalimela Dalam and his wife, but never reached the rank beyond area committee member because she was from Odisha whereas others from Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh went past her. That rankled her from inside,” said sources.
In last two years, as many as 30 have surrendered which also speaks volumes about how the State Police has leveraged its surrender and rehabilitation policy to wean the Naxals away from their ideology and outfit.
There are about 250 Maoists operating in the State. Just about 20 are from Odisha while over 180 are from Chhattisgarh and the remaining from Telangana and West Bengal.
What has also worked in favour of Odisha is its changed strategy of soft policing which included extending medical assistance to injured Maoist cadres even after a gun battle in the past.
In another instance, Naxal cadres taking bath in a pond in Tulsi hills of Malkangiri and adjoining Andhra Pradesh were not fired upon by the security forces as the former were unarmed, said an officer.
Sabita was apparently not very sure of surrender in the neighbouring state which wages a grim and bloody battle against the Maoist outfit and chose to come to Odisha because of its sound and humane policy.
The 35-year-old was carrying a reward of Rs 4 lakh on her head. So was Talse Huika (23), another area committee member of Boipariguda local unit that operated under Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) who surrendered along with Raidhar Dhurua. A party member of Mahupadar local organisation squad, Raidhar was carrying a cash reward of Rs 1 lakh.
Apart from the discrimination, they said, the cadres from Odisha are also disillusioned with the mindless violence the top cadres have been ordering against tribals who are branded as police informers and put on target.
“Even those who express their inclination to quit are threatened that their family members would have to pay with blood. This has been the version of many cadres,” Sabita said.
Frequent instances of ill treatment of women and local cadres at the hands of top leaders of Chhattisgarh and AP have only led to more drop-outs of Odisha cadre, not to speak of the hazards posed by coronavirus pandemic.
DGP Abhay, Director Intelligence Lalit Das and IG (Operations) Amitabh Thakur flew in to facilitate the
Recently, divisional committee member (DCM) of Pedabayalu Sudhir quit the banned outfit. A lady Maoist of AOBSZC, Maiti, too left the organisation.