NIA arrests TMC leader Chhatradhar Mahato from Lalgarh

NIA arrests TMC leader Chhatradhar Mahato from Lalgarh

Biswabrata Goswami

MIDNAPORE, 28 MARCH: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Trinamul Congress leader and former convener of People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) Chhatradhar Mahato from his house at Lalgarh in Jhargram on early morning today.

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The arrest comes hours after the first phase assembly polls for 30 Junglemahal seats, where the leader wields considerable influence, ended.

A team of NIA officials raided the house of Mahato at around 3 am and arrested him in connection with the murder of CPI-M leader Prabir Mahato in 2009, a police official said.

He is likely to be produced before a special NIA court in Kolkata today.

The NIA had moved an appeal before the high court challenging a special court order restraining the agency from arresting Mahato in connection with the murder of a local CPI-M leader in 2009 at Lalgarh in the Jangalmahal region, which was then a hotbed of Maoist activities.

On a plea by the NIA seeking custodial interrogation of Chhatradhar Mahato, a division bench ruled that the accused appear before the investigating officer at the task force’s Salt Lake office at 11 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Mahato who played a crucial role in the Lalgarh movement was arrested in September 2009 by West Bengal police. The PCAPA had served as the frontal organisation of Communist Party of India (Maoist) and generated public support during the Lalgarh siege, when the rebels had established their hold over Lalgarh and adjoining areas.

Mahato who was slapped with charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act was released from prison in February 2021 and was appointed as an office-bearer of the Trinamul Congress. He was crucial to party’s organisation in the Junglemahal region. The arrest comes as a blow to the West Bengal’s ruling party.

Niyati Mahato, the wife of Chhatradhar Mahato, said that the NIA officials snatched their phones. “They barged into our house. He (Chhatradhar) was pushed and brought down from the terrace. When he asked what the matter was, he was asked to step out. They said they’ve come from the police station,” Niyati Mahato said.

“There were at least 40-50 people. We don’t know where he was taken. We have no information,” Niyati Mahato said.

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