India offers Maoist rebels cash for weapons

Two state governments reveal details of a weapons-buyback and job-training program that will attempt to tackle Maoist violence.

NEW DELHI // In an attempt to tackle growing Maoist violence, two state governments revealed details yesterday of a weapons-buyback and job-traing program that offers rebels substantial money for their surrender and weapons. For example, the plan provides a one-time payment of 150,000 rupees (Dh11,920), a monthly stipend of 2,000 rupees for three years and additional future payments to rebels who surrender their bullets, guns, missiles and explosives. They also will receive training as special police officers.

Under the plan, 25,000 rupees is offered for a surrendered machine gun, sniper rifle or rocket-propelled grenade. A surface-to-air missile would fetch an extra 20,000 rupees, an AK-series assault rifle 15,000 rupees, a landmine, improvised explosive device or pistol revolver 3,000 rupees and each kilogram of explosive 1,000 rupees, a West Bengal police statement said. Zulfiquar Hassan, inspector general of Maoist-infested western range of West Bengal, said that the surrendered guerrillas would be placed in a special camp and provided extra security, so they are not targeted by fellow rebels who might want to punish them.

"We can train and employ the surrendered rebels as [short-term] special police officers. We can also arrange permanent government jobs for some if their performance is that satisfying. We shall also give them vocational training which can help them secure jobs in future? we are even open to negotiations with more attractive offers if some rebels really want to surrender, but do not find our package interesting."

Manoj Verma, police chief of Maoist-infested West Midnapur district in West Bengal, said that as the Maoists are losing their support in many villages it was the "right time" to introduce the scheme. Mr Verma said the goverment has received feelers from at least 10 Maoist cadres who are willing to surrender since a broad outline of the plan was revealed last week. "We believe some more rebels will be ready to return to normal life after they know the details of our scheme for surrender on offer," he said.

"Many Maoists cadres are hiding in forests and remote villages. To distribute our leaflets which are carrying the details of our scheme in different languages, we may use helicopter." Neyaz Ahmed, police chief of Maoist-troubled neighbouring Jharkhand state, said yesterday that two Maoists, impressed with the government-offered rehabilitation package, had surrendered. Rajdeo Yadav, a Maoist commander who surrendered in Jharkhand, told police that he left his group because he did not agree with the Maoists' way of solving problems of the society, Mr Ahmed said.

"Another girl cadre said she left her group because she was disenchanted with the Maoists' violent lifestyle and many other young cadres too were planning to surrender," said Mr Ahmed, referring to 18-year-old Lalmuni who ran away from a Maoist women's armed guerilla squad in Jharkhand last week. "Many Maoists cadres are disillusioned with their movement. They want to leave the path of violence and want to join their democratic mainstream," he said.

Communist Party of India [Maoist] West Bengal State Committee member Akash, who uses one name, said yesterday in a statement that the government would not be able to "buy-out oppressed and protesting masses" and would not be able to solve the crisis in the region. "The government is trying to lure away our comrades with money. But our party workers are driven by a high level of dedication. They will all reject such surrender and rehab offers outright. No true Maoist can fall prey to such mean temptations," said Akash.