12 Apr, 2013, 0551 hrs IST, Aman Sharma, ET Bureau
Surrendering naxals to get a red carpet
NEW DELHI: The home ministry has asked state governments to consider not prosecuting surrendering Naxalites and set up fast-track courts for speedy trials as part of a strategy to woo extremists to lay down their arms and join the mainstream.
The Centre has also asked states to consider providing free legal aid or the services of an advocate to surrendered Naxal cadre to help them with court trials. These measures are part of the ministry’s surrender guidelines for Naxals, which kicked in from April 1 and in which the monetary incentives for surrenders of cadres and weapons was sharply increased.
These guidelines seek to advise states on how to deal with pending court cases of surrendering Naxals. “Trial of heinous crimes committed by the surrendered Naxal may continue in the courts. The states may also consider withdrawal of prosecution on a case to case basis depending upon the antecedents and merits of the individual surrendered person. For minor offences, plea bargaining could be allowed at the discretion of the state authorities,” say the guidelines that have been sent to Naxal-affected states.
The ministry, which has been encouraged by a sharp rise in the numbers of Naxal surrenders in the last few years, also wants the states to consider providing free legal aid or an advocate to those who have surrendered “Fast track courts may be constituted by states for speedy trials against the surrendered Naxals,” the guidelines say.
This is part of the carrot and stick policy of the ministry, which has been spearheading the offensive against Naxals in various parts of the country.
Under it, it aims to provide gainful employment and entrepreneurial opportunities to the surrendered Naxals so that they are encouraged to join the mainstream and do not return to the Naxal fold.
“The objective is to wean away the hardcore cadres who have strayed into the fold of the Naxal movement and now find themselves trapped in that net,” the norms said.
Surrender cases involving Naxals hit 440 last year, up from 394 the year before and in line with a general trend that has seen a steady rise since 2009. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has in the past called the Naxalite threat one of the most serious internal security threats facing the country, with vast swathes of the hinterland in several states outside government control.
The ministry has said that along with making it easier for Naxals to lay down arms, it should also be ensured that those who surrender do not find it attractive to rejoin the movement. It has told the states that “tactical surrenders” should not be permitted at any cost. The guidelines therefore stipulate that surrendering Naxals must make a “clear confession” of all criminal acts committed by them, including the names of Naxal planners, financiers, harbourers, couriers and the details of organisations they are familiar with.
Experts also caution against adopting too lenient a strategy against the Naxals. “A naxalite must not be allowed to have the best of both worlds. I do not think we should become too liberal and the surrendering Naxal must face the music for his criminal acts. Giving legal aid is fine but prosecution should not be dropped,” said Prakash Singh, a former BSF chief and an expert on leftwing extremism. Enthused by the sharp increase in surrenders in the last few years, the home ministry has also sharply raised the monetary incentive for surrendering Naxals from April 1.
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