Five hundred and fourteen tribal youths from Jharkhand, who were made to surrender as Naxalites in the period of 2012 to 2014, did not have any links with the ultras, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has found. The NHRC has sent a report to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to this effect, saying that some senior Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers connived with some Jharkhand police officers to organise these “fake” surrenders to take advantage of the attractive Naxalite surrender policy, which provides government jobs and monetary compensation to the surrendered Naxals. The youths, who were promised government jobs if they surrendered as Naxals, paid lakhs of rupees in the hope of getting a job, but did not get anything in return. According to the surrender policy, apart from a government job, a surrendered Naxal is entitled to get an amount ranging from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh. An extra incentive is given for weapons that are surrendered, which can go up to Rs 35,000 for a light machine gun.
The full bench of the NHRC led by chairperson H.L. Dattu was in Ranchi for three days since 7 September in this connection. Jaimini Kumar Srivastava, official spokesperson of the NHRC, told The Sunday Guardian that the details of the NHRC order on the case will be made public next week. “The findings of the Commission in this case are still being given final touches after which they will be shared,” he said.
The incident came to light in March 2014 when one of the 514 youths who surrendered as “Naxals”, filed a police complaint in Ranchi, accusing Dinesh Prajapati, the owner of a local coaching centre named Digdarshan Institute, of cheating him by promising to get him recruited into a paramilitary force. The youth claimed that Prajapati took Rs 2 lakh from him in May 2012 and connected him to his friend Ravi Bodra, stating that he was a former intelligence informer who had good contacts in the CRPF and Jharkhand police.
The complainant stated that Prajapati told him about jobs being available in the CRPF under the “surrender policy”, for which he (complainant) had to claim that he was a Naxal and surrender before the CRPF with weapons. As per the complainant, he was supplied with arms by Ravi Bodra after which he surrendered. Following this, he was “arrested” and lodged in the CRPF’s elite CoBRA battalion camp located on Ranchi’s old jail campus. There, he found that there were more innocent youths like him who had “surrendered” in the lure of government jobs.
After the complaint, Ravi Bodra was arrested by the Ranchi police in April 2014. Bodra told the police that he was working with senior CRPF and police officers, who shared a part of the money that he and Prajapati had taken from the 500-odd “surrendered Naxals”.
The fact that the Jharkhand police and the CRPF were aware of this whole façade even in October 2012 can be confirmed by a letter that has been accessed by this newspaper. The letter was written by M.V. Rao, then Inspector General of Police, to the Jharkhand Director General of Police in October 2012, soon after Rao was appointed in-charge of operations, CRPF, Jharkhand sector.
In his letter, Rao clearly mentioned that only a few among the 514 youths who were kept in the old central jail of Ranchi under the CRPF, had any criminal cases against them and that they were brought to the jail without verifying their association/participation in Naxalite activities. The letter also raised concern that innocent people were made to surrender to claim benefits under the surrender policy.
Officials in Ranchi said the surrender policy was misused and abused as the so called surrendered Naxals were given weapons only at the time of their fake surrender, after which they were arrested and taken to the old central jail under the guard of the CRPF.
Rajiv Kumar, a Ranchi-based lawyer, who has filed a PIL in the matter on behalf of the 514 youths, said that there was irrefutable evidence that senior police and CRPF officials were involved in this scam.
“During the course of the hearing of the PIL, the government has not denied any facts that we have said in our application, because the evidence is too strong to deny them. Senior police officials, who are now in DG, ADG and SSP ranks, are involved in this. A former DG rank officer, who was the advisor to the state government, is also involved in this. In fact, when they were lodged in the old Ranchi jail, expenses for food and other purposes of these 514 people were borne by the state police, of which we have bills. These 514 people were picked up from different parts of Jharkhand in police vehicles and it was shown that these people had surrendered with arms, but now these arms along with the register that had details of who had surrendered, with what arms, have been ‘misplaced’. Not a single weapon has been recovered,” he said. According to Kumar, this was probably the first time that a case was taken away from CBI by the state government (then headed by Hemant Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha) in 2014 after a notification seeking a CBI investigation was already issued.
The NHRC had taken suo motu cognizance of the incident in July 2014 and had appointed a team to probe the “misuse and abuse of surrender policy”. The NHRC found that many of the surrendered youths had sold off their personal belongings like motorcycles and land to arrange for the money to secure a job in the Army, the paramilitary forces or the state police.
“The scam raises questions such as from where these fake Naxals got the weapons to surrender, how they managed to stay in a CRPF guarded prison for two years and which CRPF and state police officers were involved in this. The NHRC can only look into the violation of the human rights of these innocent youths, nothing more than that,” a Ranchi-based official said.