Raktima Bose

KOLKATA: Chhatradhar Mahato, convener of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC), who was arrested in an undercover operation on September 26 in the Lalgarh area of West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district, was brought to the State police’s headquarters in the city on Friday for further interrogation.

Blindfolded with a piece of black cloth, his face overgrown with salt-and-pepper beard and a polythene bag presumably carrying a change of clothes in his hand, Mr. Mahato was flanked by armed Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

A trying time

The SAF commandos and sleuths of the Criminal Investigation Department, which is investigating the case, had a trying time taking him down from the vehicle as the media pounced on him for pictures.

With the police claiming that the initial rounds of interrogation of Mr. Mahato had yielded certain vital information regarding the financial assistance received by the PSBJC and also the amount of property held by him, (including a Rs. one crore life insurance policy), they are hopeful of digging out further leads about Mr. Mahato’s connections with the Maoists.

Focus on fund channels

The State Director-General of Police, Bhupinder Singh, told The Hindu that the second round of interrogation would try to ferret out information on the “various channels through which the organisation was funded as well as the source of the firearms possessed by its members.”

“We will try to establish the alleged links that Mr. Mahato had with the Maoists,” Mr. Singh said.

A person named Sukhshanti Baskey, the treasurer of the PSBJC and believed to be one of the linkmen between the PSBJC and the Maoists, has already been arrested by the police on September 29 based on Mr. Mahato’s interrogation.

Based on the information spelt out by Mr. Mahato during interrogation, a team of the CID arrested a Jahrakhand-based Maoist from Chunchura, the administrative headquarter of West Bengal’s Hooghly district, on Friday. Speaking to The Hindu, CID’s Additional Director-General, Raj Kanojia, said that Chandrabhushan Yadav held the rank of a commander in the Maoist squad in Jharkhand.

“Mr. Yadav is wanted by the Jharkhand police for long. Acting on information from Mr. Mahato, our team raided the house where he was hiding and arrested him,” Mr. Kanojia said.

Two teams of the Jharkhand Police and the Orissa Police are expected to arrive in the city on Saturday.

Meanwhile, regarding the confusion whether several sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act have been slapped against Mr. Mahato or not, Manoj Kumar Verma, Paschim Medinipur’s Police Superintendent, told The Hindu: “Mr. Mahato has been booked under several sections of the UAPA in the first investigation report. The State government’s approval is required, however, to press the charges before submitting the charge sheet. We have already applied for the permission from the State’s Home Department.”

The State’s Home Secretary, Ardhendu Sen, had told reporters on October 1 that his permission has not been sought as of yet for booking Mr. Mahato under the UAPA.

Sources in the district’s police said that there was “sufficient evidence” with the police to justify the slapping of the UAPA against Mr. Mahato.