Focus on 'jawan, janata and jungle' to wean away Maoists
If the call of family life has played a part in weaning away Maoist cadres from the "revolution", so have the 3-Js.
Jawan, janata (the people) and the jungle.
The well-structured anti-Maoist plan is paying dividends in Gadchiroli; it's also a model that other Left-wing-extremism (LWE)-affected states are reportedly studying.
The strategy was designed by former Gadchiroli superintendent of police Suvez Haque. At its heart, it's a tactic that hinges on men and people.
In his nearly three-year tenure as the SP of this sensitive district, Haque, backed by Maharashtra's home department, reviewed his men's morale, overhauled postings and transfers to establish a transparent policy, instituted rewards for good work, set up a dedicated cell for grievance redress and formulated a leave policy for all.
Next, the police worked on winning the people's confidence, an ongoing process with zero margin for error. "We intensified public awareness campaigns and village visits, and decided not to arrest civilians who were found to support Maoists under duress," Haque had told The Telegraph last year during an interview.
The police told them they were not at fault if the Maoists forced them to provide food or shelter, but in no way could they help the rebels in operations. "If you do, we told them, we'll act."
As a result, civilian arrests declined: 154 in 2009, 47 in 2010, 103 in 2011, 75 in 2012, 37 in 2013, and only 10 or so in 2014.
It needed investment in training the men on how to deal with people, Haque said.
"We take up people's grievances with the district administration - things like ration cards and caste certificates," a police official explained.
There's also a standard operating procedure in place for search operations.
For young children, the district police started Maharashtra " darshan" tours during which they got to see various cities and meet different people.
The third component of the strategy of 3-Js is the jungle, the theatre of this armed conflict.
"It is important, but not the only way to pin the Maoists down; we have to win the psychological game too," Haque had explained.
Gadchiroli police have put up a dedicated cell for publicity or counter propaganda. This cell organises peace rallies, forges a constant dialogue with the people and also deals with the problems of families of civilians and Maoists who have been killed.
Also in place is a massive "reverse propaganda" to reach out to people with films, street plays and posters to wean away residents from joining the Maoists.
One poster put up in remote parts addresses active cadres - it appeals to them to surrender and join the mainstream. Their entitlements under the surrender policy are listed on the poster. One of the entitlements the Maharashtra government recently ratified is a plot and money to build a house.
A new colony would come up in Gadchiroli over a five-acre plot, said an official with the Naxalite rehab cell at Gadchiroli. "Married ex-Maoists will get priority in getting the plots," the official added.
The district police also improved night patrolling, spread their intelligence network and used central para-military forces only as a force multiplier.
In 2013, Gadchiroli police had launched a daring campaign called Navjeevan. Police officials had visited the families of more than 250 cadres active in the district to convince them to ask the rebels to return to a normal life. The officials went to remote hamlets, extended every possible support to the family members, including health aid to the elderly and education for kids, and promised to look after their needs.
The message to the Maoists was clear: "We extend warm welcome to those who return, but those who choose to fight with bullets will be confronted with bullets."
Cumulative result: Surrenders on the rise.
Maoist recruitments have reduced visibly though the rebels are known to lie low and regroup. But public support for the rebels has been on the wane.
A September 2013 CPI (Maoist) central committee document acknowledged the trend: "Due to (a) series of arrests in the past few years the Maharashtra movement is facing (a) setback," it said.
At least a hundred Maoist cadres have surrendered in Gadchiroli in the last two years, 40 of them during the month-long campaign in 2013.
In that year alone, around 30 cadres were killed in operations that followed pinpoint and real-time intelligence. Police officials said the stepped-up pressure was giving the rebels limited time to camp or rest.
It's a feature all over central India, a vast part of which is considered a liberated zone for Maoists and which today is one of the most militarised zones in the world with close to 300,000 troops spread all over.
Police officials say the rift between hardcore cadres from Andhra Pradesh, the brain behind the ideology, and the local, mostly uneducated, Adivasi cadres is widening.
Many of the top leaders, they say, don't want their kids to join the revolution.
In May 2014, Pahad Singh, the Maoist leader who oversees the Gadchiroli division, wrote to his family expressing his desire to see his daughters become doctors.
It's a rift that made Rajesh alias Komti Dugga lay down arms last year with his second wife. His first wife is in his village; they had got married when they were very young.
His second wife, whom he married while in the party, is unwell. Rajesh says he was unable to get her any medical treatment. Last year she persuaded him to surrender.
Rakesh, who has a bullet wound mark on his face, was in the party for 22 years and was a member of a divisional committee. He says he commanded a company and a division in Abujh Maadh, a liberated zone and sort of a CPI (Maoist) headquarters in the neighbouring region of Chhattisgarh. His wife was in another squad.
The couple have now settled for a quiet life in a village near Gadchiroli. Rajesh says his wife is getting the treatment she badly needed.
And they don't have to visit a doctor in secret any more