Ranchi: When Rashmi Mahli, 25, sees policemen, she no longer runs into the Jharkhand forests. Till two years ago she was a Maoist and now runs a tea stall in the Ranchi deputy commissioner's office.
Rashmi's tea stall was inaugurated on India's 67th Independence Day Thursday.
Located within the premises of Ranchi deputy commissioner's office, also known as the collectorate, the tea stall was inaugurated by Deputy Commissioner Vinay Kumar and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Saket Kumar.
Rashmi had served as a guerrilla in the group led by Kundan Pahan, one of Jharkhand's most dreaded Maoists, sometimes referred to as the state's own Veerappan, after the sandalwood smuggler who had been a scourge to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Police.
Kundan Pahan's group was active in four districts including Ranchi.
Rashmi's life changed completely after she surrendered to police in 2011.
Having joined the Maoists at a tender age, she served the outfit for more than seven years. But then, disillusioned by the violence, the sexual exploitation and the harshness of her life, she surrendered, Rashmi told IANS.
To set up her tea stall, Rashmi drew on the Rs.1.5 lakh rehabilitation package that she received under the state's rehabilitation policy for surrendered Maoists. The district administration of Ranchi provided her the space to use as a tea stall.
Rashmi is the mother of an eight-year-old boy, and hopes that her son would one day serve the police force.
"I appeal to my old colleagues (Maoists) to shun violence and join the mainstream," Mahli said.
At the time of her surrender, Rashmi was serving as the vice-president of the Chhotanagpur zone of Nari Mukti Sangh (Maoist group of women).
Rashmi's steady boyfriend, also a Maoist, had been killed some years back. She was sexually exploited by fellow-Maoists after her boyfriend died.
More than 100 Maoist guerrillas have surrendered in Jharkhand in the last four years. The guerrillas are active in 18 of the 24 districts of the state.