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Job carrot for pretend rebels

Ranchi, July 23: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today took suo motu cognisance of a recent news report that a fake Naxalite surrender scam for jobs was allegedly staged by a former Military Intelligence (MI) officer in connivance with CRPF personnel.

The NHRC action follows a Union home ministry directive to Jharkhand police for a detailed report on the purported racket, which according to the media, persuaded desperate tribal youths to pretend being Naxalites eager to surrender and get fat job and rehab benefits.

In exchange, or so the report alleged, the youths had to pay scamsters money ranging from Rs 40,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh, which they raised by selling off land or bikes and other valuables. Still, not everyone got the promised jobs.

The human rights commission observed that the contents of the news report, if true, amounted to serious human rights violations. It also asked its director general (investigations) Kanwaljit Deol to depute a team for a thorough inquiry in the matter and submit a report within four weeks.

The human rights commission’s information and public relations officer Jaimini Kumar Shrivastava told The Telegraph over phone from Delhi that an NHRC probe team would reach Jharkhand soon.

Jharkhand police, on the other hand, are tight-lipped on the Union home ministry’s order.

It seems one Ravi Bodra, an ex-armyman associated with the MI made some fast cash by throwing the carrot of the Jharkhand government’s Maoist surrender policy at unemployed tribal youths. His alleged aides, including CRPF officers in the know, may have also got richer.

But, unfortunately, many tribal youths who fell for the con game did not get jobs.

The case surfaced on March 3 this year when one Paresh Prasad from Khunti brought the matter to the notice of Jharkhand police special crime branch.

Then, things moved in quick succession.

An FIR was lodged on March 28 at Lower Bazar police station against Bodra, Dinesh Prajapati, the director of one Digdarshan Coaching Institute near Kanta Toli in Ranchi and two of his agents in Khunti, Caroline Kerketta and Mashi Kerketta.

So far, 18 victims have come forward with their complaints, accusing Bodra and Prajapati of charging between Rs 40,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh for jobs in security forces, provided they surrendered as Maoists.

Bodra and Prajapati were arrested in April and May, respectively. The police are now scouting for the Kerkettas.

But, apparently, preparations for this scam began way back in 2011.

Hundreds of youths who ostensibly “surrendered” had been taken to a base camp of 203rd CoBRA battalion of the CRPF situated at the old jail on Jail Road under purported detention for a year. At the jail — empty since Birsa Munda Central Jail came into existence some eight years ago — where the CRPF base camp functioned, they got physical training and worked as attendants.

When Ranchi police verified the visitors’ register of the CRPF Ranchi jail camp, it found 512 civilians had visited or stayed there during 2011-12.

Though the police questioned CRPF officers, they are not ready to answer if paramilitary forces are implicated. They are also mum about why 512 youths were kept under purported or real detention when they had no criminal or rebel background, a question the Union home ministry has raised.

Bodra, originally from Bandgaon in Chaibasa, was a havildar in the Indian Army in Nagaland, and after retirement in 2006 joined the MI in Assam, helping the army secure the surrender of Bodo insurgents. He returned to Jharkhand in 2010 where he became the “ears” of top police and CRPF brass and convinced them he could persuade Maoists to surrender. He conceived the fake surrender scam when he came in touch with Prajapati who ran the coaching institute.