He has been described as a first-generation Maoist strategist who helped spread the movement to urban areas, convicted of sedition along with Dr Bianayak Sen, and linked to attacks such as a strike on a police centre in Jharkhand in 2005.
Narayan Sanyal, 78, continues to face trial in Jharkhand for the 2005 attack after the Supreme Court granted him bail in the sedition case of Chhattisgarh. While convicting him, a Raipur court had termed him a CPI(Maoist) politburo member. Judge B P Verma had mentioned the loot of an armoury — 300 Maoists had attacked the Home Guards Training Centre in Giridih on November 11, 2005, killing five cops and snatching 193 weapons — besides an attack on a Bengal thana and the alleged recovery of his photograph along with Maoist literature from Naxals in Dantewada.
Yet, activists allege, police have not managed to present evidence against him in any of the cases he faces.
The bail came after the Supreme Court took into consideration his age and the fact that he has already spent six years in jail. Sources in Raipur jail describe a feeble old man with severe arthritis. “His fingers would fumble when he lifted his hand,” said an officer.
It is now over 40 years since he allegedly began to be involved with Naxals, who today refer to him as “Vijay Da”. A resident of Diamond Harbour Road, Kolkata, he had been lodged in a Bihar jail for some years in the 1970s.
“All these cases are framed,” says Sanyal’s counsel Sadiq Ali. “He has not been identified in any case, nor has his role been mentioned. The only case in which they tried him turned out to be false and he was acquitted.”
“It’s not easy to get exact details about these top leaders. He was behind the merger of the PW and the MCC that led to the formation of CPI(Maoist) and has been instrumental in many such mergers among banned groups in the last four decades,” says a police officer.
The contradictions extend to the time Sanyal was arrested. Prosecution witness Deepak Chaubey of Raipur, who describes Sanyal as a tenant of his and who was introduced by Sen as a relative, has testified that Andhra Pradesh police raided his home in December 2005 and arrested Sanyal. Andhra police, however, claim to have arrested Sanyal from border town Bhadrachalam in January 2006.
The Andhra police failed to produce a chargesheet, Sanyal was released on bail in April 2006, and the Chhattisgarh police arrested him soon after from Konta, on the Andhra border, for the murder of a local tribal.
“How can a judge accept one part of a person’s statement [Sen introducing Sanyal] but not consider the other part? It proves the case was fabricated,” Sen’s wife Ilina tells The Indian Express.
Sanyal & Sen
Between Sanyal’s arrest in April 2006 and Sen’s in May 2007, the latter met him 33 times in jail claiming to be a relative of his. Police cited these meetings as evidence that Sen acted as a carrier for Sanyal’s letters to Maoists. The defence said that was impossible as the meetings took place before jail authorities.
“When Binayak went to meet him, Sanyal was not facing sedition charge but a criminal charge of murder, ” Ilina Sen says. “Regardless of who Sanyal was, what his ideology was, there was no evidence of sedition in the case.”
A police officer says, “It was in jail that he conspired with Sen.”
Among those who question these meetings is a Chhattisgarh-based tribal rights activist, B K Manish. “Binayak Da met Sanyal so many times. Has he ever met anyone else in jail even twice?” says Manish, a participant in PUCL activities who was, however, denied a membership because of questions he posed.
Before Sanyal, bail had already been granted to Sen and Piyush Guha, also convicted of sedition. Their sentences suspended, the three have appealed before the Bilaspur High Court against the conviction.
Sanyal, in Giridih jail since February, will need to file a fresh bail application in the case there. “Since the bail [sedition case] has come from the Supreme Court, it may have some impact on the [Giridih] trial,” says Jharkhand IG (Ops) S N Pradhan.