Body yet to be confirmed as that of Sashadhar Mahato

Sashadhar Mahato, a long-time Maoist and close aide of Communist Party of India (Maoist) Polit Bureau member Kishenji, is suspected to have been killed in an encounter with the security forces in the Jhargram region of West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district on Thursday.

His elder brother, former Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee convener Chhatradhar Mahato, is currently imprisoned on charges of sedition.

Jhargram Superintendent of Police Praveen Tripathi said that though initial reports suggested that the deceased was Sashadhar Mahato, the body was yet to be “officially confirmed” as that of Mahato, by his family members.

According to the district police, security forces, comprising State and Central police personnel, raided a Maoist hideout in Chandsora village near Kushaboni forest, after receiving a tip-off that Mr. Mahato had been camping there with a group of rebels.

“As the security personnel were trying to cordon off the hideout, the Maoists became alert and opened fire on us. The forces retaliated, leading to an exchange of fire that lasted about an hour before the Maoists fled from the area,” Mukesh Kumar, Additional Superintendent of Police, told The Hindu from the encounter site.

Mr. Kumar said the body of Mr. Sashadhar Mahato and an AK-47 rifle was found during a search operation following the encounter. A few bags were also recovered from the spot, which indicated that the Maoists had been camping there for some days.

Mr. Kumar could not confirm reports that one more Maoist might have suffered bullet injuries as search operations were hampered by darkness.

“Arrangements are being made to bring the body to Jhargram sub-divisional hospital. Search operations are still going on to trace the Maoists who managed to escape, and will continue throughout the night. The entire area has been cordoned off,” Mr. Tripathi said.

Mr. Mahato, who used to operate in the West Bengal-Jharkhand border region along with his wife Suchitra, is suspected to have been involved in several violent incidents, including the Silda carnage and Jnaneswari Express derailment last year.

RELATED NEWS

Six Naxals shot dead in Bihar encounterMarch 14, 2011

Kishenji killed in encounterNovember 24, 2011