in the red zone ‘Girls from city colleges targeted by Maoists’; literature meant to lure women into Naxal movement seized
Twenty-Seven-year-old Sheetal Sathe, a post-graduate from Fergusson College, is on the run. She is wanted by investigating agencies for her alleged Maoist links.
Sheetal is a resident of Kasewadi slum and her mother is proud of her artistic skills. “Sheetal is a talented artiste since her childhood,” says her mother Sandhya. “Sheetal is good in singing, poetry and other arts. She has won many prizes in school. She did her MCom from Fergusson College. But over a year ago, she went missing and has remained so,” said Sandhya.
Sheetal was the president of city-based ‘cultural group’ — Kabir Kala Manch. Five members of the group, including Sheetal, her husband Sachin Mali and cousin Sagar Gorkhe, are wanted in a case registered by the state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) for their alleged Naxal links.
Kabir Kala Manch was founded by Amarnath Chandaliya in 2002. Chandaliya’s statement to ATS says he held meetings with banned CPI (Maoists) operatives Angela Sontakke and her husband Milind Teltumbde, but later severed contacts with them due to differences. Chandaliya said Sheetal, Sachin, Ramesh Gaychor, Dhavala Dhengle joined the Manch in 2005.
Investigators suspect that during several meetings and the 15-day study camp held in Khed taluka of Pune district, Angelo and Milind indoctrinated them into Maoist ideology. Sheetal was allegedly heading the cell formed by Angela for attracting people living in slums. She was an ‘expert’ singer of revolutionary songs. The police recently grilled her mother after CPI (Maoists) put up posters in city demanding release of some comrades. “The cops grilled me…We are a poor family. Sheetal’s father has expired, her younger sister is married and brother goes to school. I worked hard for Sheetal’s education. I used to work at a private hospital, but was suspended a year ago as I was disturbed and remained absent for 75 days just to find Sheetal. She married Sachin six years ago. I do not believe she is a Maoist,” she said.
In April-May 2011, seven, including five women — Angela, Sushma Ramteke alias Shraddha Gurav, Nandini Bhagat alias Mayuri, Jyoti Chorge, Anuradha Sonule alias Aditi Kadam — were arrested by the ATS from Pune, Thane and other parts of the state for allegedly spreading Naxal ideology. Milind, Sheetal and six others were also booked in this case. Cops have seized Naxal literature, money and other items from the suspects. There is literature aimed at drawing women in Naxal movement. It includes photos and text on bravery of women Naxalites.
Investigators say like Sheetal, several girls from Pune were allegedly targeted by the Maoists. Jyoti Chorge (20) from Dhankawdi, left home on April 9, 2011 and did not return. An HSC pass, she was working at a private firm. On April 29, her family got her letter saying she left home for higher studies and would make them feel proud one day. But a day later, she was arrested by the ATS. Investigations revealed Jyoti, through her friend, came in contact with ‘Unity Students Federation’ a group formed by Wadia College students in 2010. Alleged CPI (Maoist) operative Anuradha Sonule had also developed contacts with this group in September 2010. Anuradha introduced herself as Aditi Kadam to this group and started attending their events, when she is suspected to have developed friendship with Jyoti and brainwashed her.
According to ATS, Anuradha, a native of Chandrapur, was a CPI (Maoists) member in Gadchiroli, who was asked to operate in city areas after 2007. She worked with different code names. Similarly, alleged CPI (Maoists) member Nandini Bhagat, also from Chandrapur, was placed in Pune for spreading Maoist network. She developed contacts with students from colleges in the city outskirts.
Operating with code name Kiran, she started “Ideal group” for students in a Wagholi college. Through it, she encouraged students to write poems, articles, participate in street plays, hold discussions and read books on Mao, Lenin and communism. A girl from this college said in her statement to ATS that Kiran and her associates gave anti-government lectures to the students.
V D Mishra, DIG (Anti-Naxal Operations) said, “Naxals are eyeing young girls and boys from cities. Our intelligence units are keeping a watch on them.”