As many as 295 active Maoist militia members unarmed villagers who act as sympathisers, informers and aid of the red rebels surrendered before the Odisha Police in Swabhiman Anchal of Malkangiri district, Director General of Police (DGP) S K Bansal said on Sunday.
The militia, comprising members of Gana Natya Sangha and village committees, includes both men and women who hail from Dhakadpadar, Dabuguda, Taber and Arlingpada villages in Jantri gram panchayat area under the jurisdiction of Jodambo Police Station.
They voluntarily came to a BSF camp in Jantri and surrendered before Odisha Police in the presence of Malkangiri district administration on Saturday afternoon, the DGP said.
The militia members are not cadres of the banned CPI (Maoist) outfit but act as their "helping hands", Bansal said.
The surrendered militia members were involved in arson incidents, hoisting of black flags, burning of vehicles, enforcing boycott of elections, arranging food and logistics for Maoists, passing information about movement of security forces, and threatening and assaulting innocent tribals branded as "police informers" and forcing them to leave their homes, he said.
The villagers claimed they were "misled" by Maoists, and they were encouraged by the surrender of 50 militia members on June 2 this year, the DGP said.
"Seeing the government's development work in the region, they decided to join the mainstream and lead a peaceful life," he said.
The surrendered militia members burnt Maoist uniforms and raised slogans against them. They performed "Dhemsa" (local folk dance) at the camp and took part in a feast organised by the police and the administration on the occasion.
The administration distributed MGNREGA job cards and pension cards, and the police gave out sports equipment to the surrendered militia members.
"We appeal to the Maoists to return to the mainstream and lead a peaceful life," the DGP added.
Swabhiman Anchal in Chitrakonda block of Malkangiri was earlier a "cut-off" area and a Maoist hotbed. Red rebels from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh used to take shelter in the region after committing crimes in the neighbouring states.
The region was considered a safe haven for Maoists as it is surrounded on three sides by Balimela reservoir and dense forest on one side connects it to Andhra Pradesh. Security personnel seldom ventured into the area.
However, the situation substantially improved after the 910-metre Gurupriya Bridge connected it to the mainland in 2018. The bridge has helped Odisha Police combat Maoist activities in the area.