The West Bengal government on Saturday sent out a strong warning to associates and supporters of Chhatradhar Mahato, convener of the Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSJBC), saying those supporting and associating themselves with him directly or indirectly were also liable to be punished under relevant sections of the law, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Speaking to reporters here, Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said Mr. Mahato had been arrested under the UAPA and anyone found helping him would attract the relevant provisions of the law.

He was replying to a question whether a section of the intelligentsia, arguing in favour of Mr. Mahato’s release, was committing a punishable offence. “Those who are advocating his release are also punishable, I feel the police may take action,” Mr. Chakraborty said.

He said that names of people (obtained from lists) given by suspected Maoists arrested by the police would also invite punishment if they were found to have helped people like Mr. Mahato. “No one is above the law,” Mr. Chakraborty said, adding police could take action if the help, covert or overt, was proved.

A section of the city’s intellectuals, including playwrights, artists, actors, litterateurs and social workers, visited Lalgarh on June 21, four days after the launch of the joint operation by the Central forces and the State police. They also met Mr. Mahato.

Police claimed that Mr. Mahato’s interrogation revealed his city links, including donations of Rs.1.5 lakh in a single tranche.

Arrested Maoist taken to Jharkhand

Meanwhile, the Jharkhand-based Maoist squad commander, arrested by a team of West Bengal’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Friday from Hooghly district, was taken to Jharkhand on Saturday on a four-day transit remand.

Chandrabhushan Yadav was arrested on the basis of information given by Mr. Mahato. Anuj Sharma, CID’s Deputy Inspector-General, told reporters that Mr. Yadav held the rank of commander in the Jharkhand Maoist squad and looked after the organisation’s functioning in four districts, including Latehar, Gumla and Lohardaga.

Mr. Sharma said 16 cases of murder, abduction and extortion were pending against Mr. Yadav with the Jharkhand police, who announced a reward of Rs.12 lakh on his arrest. A sum of Rs.67,000 in cash, six mobile phones and documents were found in Mr. Yadav’s possession at the time of arrest, he added.

Mr. Yadav was produced before a court at Chunchura in Hooghly district, from where a Jharkhand police team took him to Jharkhand.

‘Police ploy’

Polit bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Kishanji, however claimed that Mr. Yadav is a former Maoist who left the organisation “long ago.”

Speaking to The Hindu over telephone from his hideout in Lalgarh, Kishanji alleged that Mr. Yadav’s arrest was a “ploy of the police to carry on with its misinformation campaign.”

Meanwhile, top-ranking police officials interrogated Mr. Mahato in several rounds throughout the day. According to police sources, the interrogations are focussed on extracting information on about Mr. Mahato’s links with city-based Maoist sympathisers and fundraisers.

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