Chhatradhar Mahato, convener of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC), has been charged under several sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA), by a court in Jhargram in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district even as fresh violence broke out in the area on Monday in response to his arrest two days ago.
Suspected Maoists set a bus on fire at Rathbeda near Jhargram on Monday afternoon after directing the passengers to get down.There have been several protests following Mr. Mahato’s arrest in areas adjoining Lalgarh where the PSBJC has been most active since November 2008 when it launched an agitation against alleged police atrocities on villagers there. The PSBJC has called an indefinite bandh in the region demanding his release.
Mr. Mahato, who was remanded to police custody till October 1 by the court on Sunday, “has been booked under Sections 16, 18, 20, 38 and 39 of the UAPA for his links with a terrorist organisation and for raising funds for a terrorist organisation,” the district’s Superintendent of Police, Manoj Verma told The Hindu over telephone.
Even though some Maoists have been arrested since joint operations by security forces began on June 18, Mr. Mahato is the only person to be booked under the UAPA in the district ever since the Centre declared the Communist Party of India (Maoist) a terrorist outfit. “He [Mr. Mahato] is also connected to several other cases, including kidnapping and attempt to murder,” he added.
On the threats by certain leaders of the CPI (Maoist) of violence in the area unless Mr. Mahato is released immediately, Mr. Verma said that so far the police had been able to ensure that there was no breach in law and order in the region but for one incident.
The bandh called by the PSBJC had affected life in certain parts of the Jhargram sub-division, but barring the burning of the bus at Rathbeda, no untoward incident had happened, Mr. Verma said.
Meanwhile, the two police constables — Siteshwar Prasad and Shishir Kanti Nag — who were abducted on September 26 by suspected Maoists demanding Mr. Mahato’s release were set free late on Sunday at Jamtalghera, about seven km from where they were picked up, Mr. Verma said.