While violence in the Lalgarh area of West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district continued unabated on Thursday, when a bullet-riddled body was recovered in the vicinity, a Jhargram court remanded Chhatradhar Mahato, convener of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC), to seven days in police custody.
Mr. Mahato, arrested on September 26 for his alleged links with a terrorist organisation and for raising funds for it, was earlier remanded to five-day police custody by the same court on September 27.
3 held on suspicion
On Thursday, Mr. Mahato along with three persons — Ranjit Murmu, Sambhu Soren and Sugen Soren — who have been arrested on suspicion of being Maoists — was produced before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate .
Though the public prosecutor submitted a petition seeking a 25-day police remand, the court remanded Mr. Mahato to police custody only till October 7.
Speaking to The Hindu over telephone from Jhargram, defence counsel Kaushik Sinha said: “Primarily the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act slapped on Mr. Mahato is not applicable in this case since the PSBJC is not a declared terrorist organisation, scheduled under the UAPA.”
Pointing out that Mr. Mahato had been suffering from an acute stomach upset since he was arrested, Mr. Sinha said he had filed a petition on September 27 for proper treatment of his client.
He, however, refuted reports that Mr. Mahato was physically harassed by the police during interrogation.
As for the body of Barun Pratihar recovered by the police near Kantapahari on Thursday, second day of the 48-hour-bandh called by the PSBJC in protest against Mr. Mahato’s arrest, Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Verma said though the identity of the assailants was not clear, the needle of suspicion pointed to the Maoists.
Mr. Verma said: “One suspected Maoist, Durga Soren, was arrested from the Belpahari block on the day. We are conducting raids in several places based on the information provided by Mr. Mahato during interrogation and are hopeful of arresting the top Maoist leadership soon.”
‘Not held under UAPA’
Special Correspondent writes:
At the Secretariat, Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen told journalists that Mr. Mahato was not arrested under the UAPA.
“His links and connections are being probed now,” Mr. Sen said indicating that charges under the UAPA could be pressed only after this was over and with the permission of the Home Department.
“Arrest under the UAPA requires my permission and the police have not asked me for it … It requires specific allegations and evidence to arrest someone under the Act. We are examining the allegations against Chhatradhar Mahato,” Mr. Sen said.