Chhatradhar Mahato, a prominent leader in Junglemahal, who once led the Maoist backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) and currently a state committee leader of Trinamul Congress was reportedly grilled by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in two 11-yearold cases of train hijack and murder of a CPI-M leader.
Mahato, who was inducted in the TMC state committee in July and given leadership roles in the Junglemahal region, was questioned by a two-member team of NIA headed by DSP ranked officer at Salboni CRPF camp in two consecutive days from Friday.“ I have come to Salboni from Jhargram to meet the NIA officers, who had summoned me for questioning in two 11year- old cases. I will cooperate with them. Earlier they had summoned me for questioning in Kolkata but I couldn’t attend them due to the Covid19 situation,” he said before entering the CRPF camp.
“The BJP is using NIA to intimidate me by using false cases that occurred more than a decade ago. I will keep opposing their communal politics,” the 57-year-old TMC leader said.Mahato was a prominent leader of the Lalgarh movement that was spearheaded by PCAPA in the late 2000s.
Mahato was arrested on 26 September, 2009.The political circles and the defense lawyer of Mahato, Koushik Sinha have raised questions why the NIA officials felt the need of a fresh investigation in two decade-old cases which are now in the charge framing stage in the court.
After 11 years behind bars for assorted crimes, including charges under UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), Chhatradhar came out in February 2020 to find that his land had undergone a transformation, the red laterite soil, once soaked in the political colours of the Left, was sprouting saffron shoots.
The Mahatos are OBCs and make up 32 per cent of the population in Junglemahal, which includes the 42 assembly seats of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts.
The SCs/ STs cover another 28 per cent. Chhatradhar’s initiation into mainstream politics last week as a secretary of the TMC is largely seen as an attempt to win back the Mahatos, who seemed to have voted en bloc for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Political analysts said if voting patterns follow the Lok Sabha results, the BJP will take 35 of the 42 seats in the Junglemahal area. If anyone can save the situation for the TMC, it is Chhatradhar.
His credentials are perfect 11 years in prison for fighting police atrocities against poor tribals during the Lalgarh movement in 2008-09. But the BJP is not a silent bystander to TMC’s machinations:Th NIA has dug up two cases against him dating back to 2009.