Chhatradhar Mahato may be released from jail soon. With an eye on the panchayat polls, the West Bengal government led by Trinamool Congress (TMC) is looking for sustained peace in restive Jangalmahal region of the state. It is learnt that Mahato may apply for bail soon.
Dhritiprasad, older son of Chhatradhar Mahato, is believed to have met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna – the secretariat – sometime ago. A footballer, Dhritiprasad is looking for employment and might get a government job to help feed his family whose financial condition has weakened since Mahato’s imprisonment.
Chhatradhar, convenor of the Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), was convicted in 2015 along with five others under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Midnapore court.
He led tribals in Lalgarh against the former Left Front government. Backed by the Maoists, Mahato’s group had successfully taken control of Lalgarh and established a quasi government for a brief period in 2009, until security forces snatched back control after an intense operation June 2009.
On 26 September 2009, Mahato was arrested by security personnel posing as journalists.
When the TMC came to power, Sujat Bhadra, a member of political prisoners committee, had requested the government to recognise Mahato as a political prisoner and release him. The request was never considered though Mahato was believed to have been close to Mamata Banerjee before the latter became the CM.
While Mahato reportedly did not want to apply for bail, he agreed to do so upon his family’s request, Dainik Statesman reported.
If the government decides to free him, it will have to navigate its way through the complicated procedures of the law.
It is, however, noteworthy that in spite of his imprisonment, Mahato continues to command considerable influence in Junglemahal.
In 2016, prisoner Mahato had contested the state assembly election from the region and even got a decent number of votes.
Perhaps this is why both TMC and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have tried to woo the Mahato family.
Attempts were made by both parties to contact Chhatradhar’s wife Niyati Mahato but she has so far refused to contest elections.
Chhatradhar had been granted parole for 14 days in April this year to attend to his ailing mother. But he did not step inside Junglemahal and remained in a guest house under close watch of government officials.