KOLKATA: Maoist commander Suchitra Mahato’s trusted lieutenant, Basishtha Mahto alias Bullet, who helped security forces track down Kishanji in November last year, was arrested on Wednesday although he was reportedly among a group of hard-core rebels who had petitioned the chief minister to allow them to surrender.
Eight months after Kishanji’s death in an encounter in Burishole forest, police have finally acknowledged that it was Suchitra’s squad — who Kishanji trusted blindly — that played a key role in trapping him.
Suchitra surrendered at a flashbulb-popping event at Writers’ Buildings in the presence of chief minister Mamata Banerjee on March 9 this year. But 17 of her squad members, including Bullet, who have been trying to surrender since December last year, got the cold shoulder. On May 23, seven of them surrendered but the remaining 10 were left in the lurch.
Bullet, a 25-year-old rebel from Binpur, was also the personal bodyguard of slain Maoist state committee member Sasadhar Mahato, Suchitra’s husband.
Police sources say that the state-backed anti-Maoist forum Jana Jagaran Mancha managed to ‘neutralize’ Kishanji’s security cordon and paved the way for security forces to pin him down. Mancha convener Nisith Mahato acknowledged it and said: “A total 17 members of the (Suchitra) squad had surrendered then. Bullet was among them.”
CRPF sources in Jangalmahal also confirm that Bullet was among the 17 who had contacted them to surrender a few days after Kishanji’s death. All of them went to the CRPF 184 Battalion headquarters with 20 weapons and “surrendered”. Three of the weapons were assault rifles and the rest were either .303 rifles or country-made .315 rifles.
CRPF officers say they wrote two letters to then DIG Midnapore range about the “surrendered rebels”, but there was no response from the state police. After spending nearly two weeks in the CRPF camp, the disheartened rebels returned to their villages under the close vigil of Jana Jagaran Mancha members.
The rebels then wrote to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, informing her about their “role” in the success of ‘Operation Kishanji’ and describing their condition. They requested Mamata to recognize their surrender as soon as possible and provide them the financial package the government had announced. But there was no response from the administration.
On May 23, seven of the group were shown to have “surrendered” with rifles. But there was no decision on the remaining 10. “The police officers who used us to get Kishanji had promised that we would get a share of the prize money announced for Kishanji’s death or capture. But they have not paid a single rupee,” alleged one of the 10 rebels.
Bullet’s arrest has sent ripples among other Maoists who had decided to surrender. IG Western Range Gangeswar Singh confirmed he has been nabbed in connection with the murder of Jharkhand party leader Babu Bose. “I am looking into the matter,” he said.
Nisith Mahato also said that they have never got any monetary help from the state in their campaign against the Maoists. Home department documents say that such anti-Maoist forums are entitled to get Rs 2 lakh per annum. The state government will be reimbursed for this by the home ministry.