Victims of the job racket at the NHRC hearing in Ranchi on Tuesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Sept. 2: A four-member National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) team today launched an inquiry into the fake Naxalite surrender scam for jobs, allegedly stage-managed by former purported military intelligence officer Ravi Bodra and some senior CRPF personnel in Jharkhand.
Vested with judicial powers, NHRC members C.M. Mauri, Manjeet Singh, Kulveer Singh and Nikin Kumar, who came to Ranchi last evening, heard around 27 victims at Morabadi state guesthouse today as part of their field investigation.
In the next couple of days, the team is likely to visit Khunti and other districts to meet more victims and quiz top CRPF officers and state government officials to dig out facts of the job scam. NHRC had taken suo motu cognisance of this case on July 23, which was reported by The Telegraph.
“We are here for an inquiry into a matter that is both serious and exceptional. Victims had been served a notice to appear before NHRC so that we get first-hand information,” a member said.
So far, victims have named at least three persons, Shailesh Pandey, Chetan Sharma and Lakhinder Singh, all said to be associated with 203 CoBRA battalion of the CRPF.
Bodra and his close aide Dinesh Prajapati, the director of one Digdarshan Coaching Institute near Kanta Toli in Ranchi, who sold his students the rebel-surrender job dream, have been arrested and lodged at Birsa Munda Central Jail. No paramilitary personnel is behind bars yet.
The ingenious scam, which flourished between 2010 and 2012, had Bodra roping in 534 poor youths, who were so desperate for jobs that they did not mind pretending to be Naxalites who ostensibly surrendered with weapons before the CRPF.
They were promised jobs with paramilitary forces and rebel rehab benefits.
The scam was busted in March when a youth complained to the CID special branch. It led to the startling disclosure that all the victims, who had paid up between Rs 40,000 and Rs 2.5 lakh each to get fake rebel credentials and “coaching” to bag jobs, had got nothing.
From 2010 onwards, after their “surrender” was entered in the CRPF register, the youths were taken to the base camp of 203rd CoBRA battalion of the CRPF at Birsa Munda old jail, Jail Road, under purported year-long detention.
At the camp, they got physical training required for recruitment in the central armed forces.
In mid-2012, the youths were told to go back home owing to food and accommodation problems at the base camp.
The visitors’ register of the CRPF camp shows around 512 civilians with no direct or indirect links with the forces had either visited or stayed at the base camp without valid reason.
NHRC team is understood to have asked state government and paramilitary forces to provide a copy of the letter written by then CRPF IG MV Rao in 2012-13 where he had expressed his concern over unauthorised persons who had stayed at the base camp in Ranchi.
Some of the victims, who appeared before the NHRC panel today, showed their extreme immaturity and desperation for jobs that led to their getting duped.
“I preparing for a job in the security forces when around 2010 I came in touch with Bodra who said that if I surrendered as a Maoist I would not only get my dream opening but other facilities. We were made to surrender and weapons were listed along our names. We stayed at the base camp for over a year,” said Karamdayal Tigga of Gumla.
Fellow victim Vijay Nag from Khunti said they had no reason to doubt Bodra. “Bodra was always seen with CRPF officers. In 2012, Bodra and other CRPF officers asked us to go back home citing space and logistic problems at the base camp. When we asked about our jobs, we were assured we would get them soon,” Nag said.
A shadowy character but possessing great charm, Bodra hailed from Chaibasa and retired as a havildar from the Army in Nagaland in the mid-2000s. Then, he allegedly joined the military intelligence in Assam and helped the army secure the surrender of Bodo insurgents.
He came to Jharkhand in 2010 and forged friendship with some CRPF officers, convincing them that he could persuade many Naxalites to surrender.