Since November 2008, Chhatradhar Mahato, convener of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC), has been giving interviews to journalists who trooped in at the Lalgarh area of West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district after the ‘people’s movement’ began.
Mr. Mahato even met with the ‘intelligentsia’ who went to broker peace at Lalgarh following the launch of a joint operation.
Even as the police appeared clueless about Mr. Mahato’s whereabouts, the media seemed to have a free access to him and his comments against the State government.
Following his arrest by police in the guise of journalists on Saturday, it appears his media savviness proved to be his undoing.
According to two local journalists who had taken with them ‘reporters’ from an international news agency to meet Mr. Mahato, the “role-playing on part of the police was too perfect to suspect any foul play”.
“Two persons approached us at the Lalgarh market on the day and introduced themselves as reporters from the Singapore-based Asian News Agency. One of them identified himself as Anirban Roy,” one of the journalists told The Hindu over telephone. He added: “They requested us to take them to Mr. Mahato’s hideout on our motorbikes. There was no reason to doubt them since they called up Mr. Mahato in front of us and confirmed the appointment with him. So we took them with us.”
It was after the interview with Mr. Mahato was over and the journalist from the local media were on their way back that they heard a commotion. On turning back, they saw ‘Anirban Roy’ aiming a revolver at Mr. Mahato, asking him to surrender.
“We fled the spot when more security personnel moved in simultaneously, fearing that we too might get arrested. We are now living in fear of being attacked by the PSBJC supporters and the Maoists,” he said.