* Maoists changing policies, feels villagers – The Hindu

Oyami Podiyami, the Special Police Officer (SPO) turned constable, has a new problem, since his release earlier this week by the Maoists. After spending two months in Maoist custody, while being handed over to his friends – the villagers of Pinnabheji in Sukma district – Mr Podiyami was told to stay in his village. “In case I step out, the entire village will follow me,” said Mr Podiyami. In fact if the 36 year old constable runs away or ever again join the police, the villagers will be questioned by the rebels, which everyone wants to avoid. Hence, half of the village of about 500 Muria Gond tribals, follow Mr Podiyami wherever he goes, even to his soirees.

Oyami Podiyami in his village, among villagers. Photo: Suvojit Bagchi

Oyami Podiyami and his former colleague, Barse Ganga, were kidnapped in November. They were made to walk several hundred kilometers through forests, as is the routine in any Maoist squad, till they were released. The release has surprised Mr Podiyami.

Mr Podiyami, who was later promoted as a constable, soon after Supreme Court disbanded SPOs in 2011, joined the Surya Group about six years back. He accepts that he was one of the top fighters and /perhaps/ killed many. “I did several encounters in Golapalli and Kistaram area in extreme south and fired upon Maoists…however, I am not sure if I hit anyone,” said Mr Podiyami. While in custody, Mr Podiyami explained his role as a policeman to the Maoists and confessed that he did “vandalize villages but never raped any woman.” Reaction of the rebels, however, surprised him.

“They interrogated me for several days and then came the shocker. They said, ‘…we changed our policy of killing villagers. We will release you, but after certain conditions are fulfilled’,” said Mr Podiyami. The conditions were explained to the villagers, when nearly 100 local residents met the Maoists, said Podiyami’s brother in law, Poddi, “We were asked to ensure that he never steps out of his village and if he does, then the entire hamlet should follow him…we did,” said Mr Poddi. He hopes rules will be relaxed after few years. “They were also told never to join the police, which also we guaranteed,” he said.

“The party has realized that killing, especially locals, is not helping anymore. We said that killing of constables or informers will not help (Maoists) as people are getting alienated,” said the Sarpanch, who is particularly close to the rebels in his area. He has witnessed such policy changes “several times” in last four decades, he claimed.

“May be it is a good time to initiate a talk (by the government) with the rebels, as they are changing their policies,” said the Sarpanch, while preparing his favourite brown rooster for another round of bloody fight in the weekly market.

via Maoists changing policies, feels villagers – The Hindu.

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