Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Arrested Maoist leader admits being in Nandigram

Somen ‘admits’ Nandi hand

Calcutta, Feb. 26: Maoist guerrillas had started entering Nandigram last February to join the Trinamul Congress-led anti-land acquisition movement there, the arrested state chief of the rebels has apparently told interrogators.

“The CPI (Maoist) leader also said that his men left Nandigram in the first week of November following a tip-off that CPM supporters were armed with sophisticated weapons,” a CID officer said.

The CPM recaptured Nandigram, which had been in Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee control since January 2007, in the second week of November.

Somen apparently told the CID that the decision to move into Nandigram was taken at a central committee meeting in January 2007. “The committee granted Rs 8 lakh for this,” he told the sleuths.

The Maoists’ Nandigram mission was meant to “gain people’s confidence”.

“A part of our troops had been deployed before the March 14 police firing. But we were handicapped because many of our guerrillas were yet to reach. That is why we failed to put up adequate resistance against the police and the CPM, who operated jointly,” Somen said.

After the police firing, the Maoists realised that the CPM would some day try to recapture the area at any cost.

“The leaders then decided to supply arms to the fighters there. In the first phase, five .315 and two semi-automatic rifles bought from Munger in Bihar were sent,” an officer said.

The weapons were allegedly smuggled into the area through the “river route”. The police would not reveal the route.

Police said the Maoist leaders found it difficult to send more arms and ammunition because CPM cadres had started keeping round-the-clock vigil on all routes to Nandigram.

“We then decided to set up a small factory to make arms in Sonachura,” Somen told the sleuths.

He explained why his men fled Nandigram. “In November, we came to know that thousands of CPM cadres had assembled in their strongholds around Nandigram with sophisticated arms and ammunition. We realised that fighting them with improvised arms would be impossible. We tried to ferry semi-automatic weapons from our Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh units but it was not possible,” said Somen.

“Our men then took the river and fled, dumping their weapons in the Haldi.”

Somen also revealed that he was scheduled to meet Jadavpur University and Presidency College students soon, said an officer.

Somen, 52, was grabbed by plainclothes detectives on a railway platform in North 24-Parganas’ Hridaypur, 25km from Calcutta, as he was talking to associate Dilip Mandi alias Deba on Sunday evening.

CID special inspector-general Rajeev Kumar said the police had got a scent of the outfit’s financial prowess. “The CPI (Maoist) central unit allots Rs 60 lakh to every state unit annually for members’ remuneration, hideout and other expenses. There is a special allowance for buying arms and ammunition. Somen said he used to get Rs 3,000 a month as remuneration and his associate Deba Rs 1,500,” said said.

Police officers from Orissa and Jharkhand came to CID headquarters Bhabani Bhavan today to question Somen.

Organisations known to be CPI (Maoist) sympathisers held an open meeting near Jadavpur station and took out a rally from College Street demanding Somen’s release.

Maoists in jails across Bengal will go on a hunger strike on Thursday demanding the status of political detainees, said the leaders of the Bandimukti Committee, a pro-Naxalite organisation.