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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Here is a significant security alert for Odisha. The surrenders by the left-wing ultras had seen a quantum dip in the recent years, even as the LWE (Left Wing Extremists) incidents in the State had witnessed a significant drop during the same period.

The trend observed is when the number of surrenders in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh had been maintaining a level of consistency, the rate of the fall in Odisha seems quite eye-popping.

As per the recent data released by Internal Security (Maoists) division in the Union Home Ministry, the total LWE (left-wing extremists) surrenders in Odisha in 2020 had been mere 14 from a high of over 100 for the two consecutive years of 2013 – 2014.

THE RADICAL CURVE

Post the announcement of a new attractive LWE surrender policy by Odisha government in 2012, the surrenders by ultras took a sharp leap to touch 100 in 2013 from mere 34 in 2012. In 2014, the total surrenders increased to around 110.

However, the total surrenders by the ultras dipped to 73 in 2015. The number fell further to 63 in 2016. The numbers maintained a sort of consistency in 2017.

But the latest data revealed that the total surrenders by LWEs in 2019 and 2020 fell to 11 and 14, respectively. And security experts view this as a security alert for the State.

A look at the surrender figures of other states puts the matter in the right perspective.

CHHATTISGARH:  The State maintains consistency in LWE surrenders. The numbers hovered around 300 – 350 for a period from 2012-2020. The total surrenders in 2020 stood at 323.

ANDHRA PRADESH: The surrenders by ultras in the State hovered between 240 - 64, except in 2016 when surrenders were mere 26. The total surrenders in 2020 stood at 51.

JHARKHAND: The surrenders in the State had a sort of consistency. The numbers ranged between 30 – 11 over a period of 2012-2020. The figures in 2020 stood at 17.

The above comparison shows that Odisha is the only state that had recorded a drastic drop in surrenders by the left-wing ultras in the country over the years.

SURRENDER MAP IN ODISHA

The data reveals that nearly three-fourth of the surrenders in the State had come from the Koraput - Malkangiri region alone. As the surrenders are drying up in this region, the numbers have fallen drastically.

MAOISTS CHANGED TACT?

According to a senior CRPF official engaged in an anti-Maoist operation in the State revealed that earlier LWEs recruited more women members from the region into the fold. Reports suggested that around 40 per cent of the LWE members at one point in time (2012) were women.

The security agencies targeted the women members with a revamped rehab package, whereby the State government provided one-time marriage assistance to the tune of Rs 25,000 to women Maoists and tribal youths. Many women ultras along with their male counterparts shunned the woods to start a conjugal life. Odisha gained well during the early years, post-implementation of the revamped rehab package.

Realising the trap, since the year 2016, the Maoists have stopped recruiting more women into their fold, he disclosed.

LWE THREAT STILL EXISTS?

“The records show the surrendered cadres mostly belong to lower rank of category 2-B, as per the Government classification. Profiling of the surrendered ultras reveals that none belongs to the cadre of State/Regional/Central/Politburo member. A handful of surrendered LWEs belong to the rank of Area/Sub-Zonal commanders, whereas a majority are only hardcore or active ultras with some carrying even a price tag for some heinous crimes. Moreover, very few surrendered before State police along with the rich quantity of weapons and explosives unlike in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh,” he explained and added that the threat to Odisha exists as long as the top rung ultras live in safe hideouts.

EXPERTS TAKE

According to former DGP of Odisha Police, Bipin Bihari Mishra, the drastic drop in surrenders by left ultras could be the fallout of multiple causes.

“Successful surrenders trigger an after-effect. Maoists in wood before joining the mainstream evaluate how the successful were the surrenders by their comrade colleagues earlier. They mainly evaluate the safety aspect of surrendering – means whether surrendered ultras are secure from revenge attacks by fellow comrades,” he explained.

He further observed,

“In order to pinpoint the exact cause, the recruitment data from Odisha to Maoist outfits in the recent past need to be analysed. Because surrenders may drop if the recruitment to LW groups in the State had dipped over the years.”   

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