The Home Department has allayed fears expressed by some organisations over its proposal to recruit Adivasis for counter-insurgency operations in the forests in the State.
“Yes, the State government has planned to recruit 100 tribesmen as Home Guards on daily wages of Rs.500 each. This is to ensure that the Maoists do not exploit them. There is no possibility that it will turn into an outfit like the Salwa Judum,” Minister for Home Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told The Hindu here on Tuesday.
Some of the organisations such as the Bhooparishkarana Samithi, Vanavakasa Samrakshana Samithi, Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha, Adijana Sabha, and Guruva-Attappadt Adivasi Sanghatana have expressed their displeasure over the proposed deployment of Adivasis for anti-Maoist operations.
Mr. Radhakrishnan said recruiting tribal people as Home Guards does not amount to violation of the July 2011 Supreme Court verdict on the Salwa Judum. “They are not police informants. They will not be armed nor entrusted with policing powers. The government wants to make sure that Maoist groups do not exploit them for their subversive activities,” the Minister said.
However, the government is not clear whether this would result in Left radical groups unleashing terror in the tribal colonies. The recruitment of Adivasis in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka as Home Guards had led to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) abducting and killing innocent tribesmen in these States.
“We have written to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for combing operations along with the Thunderbolt commando force in the forest at the tri-junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu,” the Minister said.
The Home Department has begun implementing a programme for police stations operating in the forest areas in the six districts of north Kerala. This is an extension of the Janamaithri community policing scheme.
The personnel of the designated stations will visit the tribal colonies every month and monitor the welfare schemes of the Adivasis and their health conditions. The Superintendents of Police will submit a report to the Additional Director General of Police and the District Collectors. To a certain extent, it will prevent the Maoists from exploiting the poor socio-economic conditions of tribal people, a senior officer said.
Now the Police and the Forest and Wildlife departments have been jointly entrusted with another scheme of forming forest-level vigilant committees (Jagritha Samitis) to tackle the Maoists in areas close to tribal settlements.
The scheme is to constitute about 300 committees at the station level, 100 at the range level, and 14 at the district level. The forest range officer is the chairperson at the station level, while the Revenue Divisional Officer and the District Collector, chairperson at the range level and district level committees respectively.
Three of the committee members, including a woman, are from the Scheduled Tribes. Members from tribal settlements, who are not part of the previously formed forest protection committees (Vana Samrakshana Samiti) and eco-development committees, are included. The committees are expected to gather information about unlawful activities in the tribal settlements in the forests.