Midnapore, Nov. 13: At least seven persons have been caught since October on charges of alleged links with Maoists, the arrests carrying the echo of Mamata Banerjee’s stern message to the rebels in Jungle Mahal.
The latest rebel to be arrested is PCPA spokesperson Asit Mahato, who was held today in Lalgarh.
Six of those arrested are Maoist action squad members, police said.
Since becoming chief minister, Mamata had unofficially halted operations by the joint forces in Jungle Mahal and formed a team of interlocutors to bring the rebels to the talks table.
But the government has revived information-driven operations after the killings of Trinamul workers Rabindranath Mishra, Lalmohan Mahato and Jitu Singh over the past few months.
On Friday, at a public meeting in Purulia’s Balarampur, Mamata asked villagers to form “peace groups” to resist the Maoists, who she called “cowards who function under the cover of darkness”.
Asit is wanted in at least 13 cases, including murders, kidnappings and sabotage. He is also an accused in the abduction of two police constables in 2009.
“The joint forces surrounded the village and Asit tried to escape. But he could not flee as security forces were on all sides,” West Midnapore SP Praveen Tripathi said.
Asit was also wanted in the Jnaneswari Express sabotage case and the CBI had declared a reward of Rs 1 lakh on him. But his name was later dropped from the chargesheet because of lack of evidence, a police officer said.
Asit is the fourth PCPA spokesperson to be arrested, the first being Chhatradhar Mahato, who was caught on September 26, 2009, when the Left was in power. The other arrested PCPA activists are Dilip Hansda and Joydeb Mahato.
“We have got the green signal to carry out operations against the Maoists. We will intensify our raids in the coming days. We have information that several rebel action squad leaders are hiding in the forests. We will soon conduct raids to arrest them,” a police officer said.
The officer said they were also trying to step up the intelligence network by taking villagers of Maoist-infested areas into confidence.
Among the persons arrested in the past few months, Suman Maity, 21, was the most prized catch, the officer said.
“Suman was the area commander of the Salboni squad of the Maoists and the right-hand man of Bikash, guerrilla leader and CPI(Maoist) state committee member who controls four squads in the Lalgarh, Jhargram, Salboni and Kotwali areas of West Midnapore,” the officer added.
After Suman’s arrest, the police found four automatic weapons, including an AK-47 rifle, looted from an Eastern Frontier Rifles camp.
According to the police, another significant arrest was that of Bhagabat Hansda, a member of the CPI(Maoist), who was the polling agent of Chhatradhar Mahato. “Bhagabat was also accused in the Salboni blast on November 2, 2008, that targeted former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s convoy.”