Orissa bans Maoists

Published : Jun 30, 2006 00:00 IST

MAOISTS AT A demonstration in Bhubaneswar. A file picture. - ASHOKE CHAKRABARTY

MAOISTS AT A demonstration in Bhubaneswar. A file picture. - ASHOKE CHAKRABARTY

The Orissa government finally outlawed the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and seven pro-Maoist organisations on June 9. Maoists are active in 14 of the 30 districts in the State and have been gaining strength by the day. The seven front organisations that have been declared unlawful are the Daman Pratirodh Manch, the Revolutionary Democratic Front, the Chasi Mulia Samiti, the Kui Lawanga Sangh, the Jana Natya Mandali, the Krantikari Kisan Samiti and the Bal Sangam. The CPI (Maoist) and the outlawed organisations have condemned the ban. They staged a two-day road blockade agitation on June 14 and 15 to register their protest against both the ban and police action in the interior pockets.

The State Cabinet has approved a rehabilitation policy for extremists who surrender and return to the social mainstream. It was advertised in several newspapers in the days following the announcement of the package. A week later, no one had responded.

The ban has come without any immediate provocation from the Maoists. The government did not impose a ban when hundreds of armed Maoists launched a wildcat attack on the district headquarter town of Koraput in February 2004 and looted a large cache of arms from the district armoury; nor when extremists raided R. Udayagiri town in Gajapati district on March 24 this year, freed 40 prisoners from a jail and abducted two police officers. The ban has come about now because those in the corridors of power have began to believe that the Maoists are the biggest obstacle to the ongoing industrialisation in the State.

For the past few months, the Maoists have put several barriers in the way of industrialisation. They and their sympathisers are opposing mineral-based industries and mining because these have caused large-scale displacement of tribal people. The opposition became shriller after the police firing at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur district on January 2. Thirteen tribal people were killed in clashes with the police when they opposed the construction of a boundary wall of a proposed steel plant.

The ban has been imposed at a time when an ill-equipped State police is facing the Maoist onslaught. For example, the police failed to prevent extremists from felling a large number of trees to block roads in Malkangiri, Gajapati and Rayagada districts on the night of June 13 to enforce their road blockade agitation. Two more India Reserve Battalions have been sanctioned by the Centre, but it may be two years from now for these battalions to become operational.

The State is now tackling the Maoists by deploying three Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) battalions provided by the Centre. One more battalion is likely to be deployed in the Maoist-hit pockets shortly. The government is now trying to woo the rebels through rehabilitation, which provides for screening of surrendered ultras by a district-level committee.

The rehabilitation package will consist of a payment up to Rs.10,000 on surrender; a payment up to Rs.20,000 on surrendering arms and ammunitions; allotment of a homestead plot, a house-building grant of up to Rs.25,000 and payment of Rs.15,000 for marriage. It will also include assistance to secure a bank loan of up to Rs.2 lakhs, and a payment of a subsidy up to Rs.50,000 after repayment of 75 per cent of the loan, which is interest-free for the first two years. Extremists who surrendered would be paid the reward money declared on their heads and receive free medical treatment in government hospitals.

Pro-Maoist organisations are now preparing to challenge the ban in the High Court. Until recently, the government treated the Maoist menace as a socio-economic problem and not just as an issue of law and order. But the ban has drawn clear battle lines between the government and the Maoists.

It may not solve the problem but it might act as a morale-booster to the police, but the government must also win back the confidence of the tribal people in the backward districts, who are leaning towards the ultras.

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