Trinamool Congress Party (TMC) leader and erstwhile convener of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), Chhatradhar Mahato has been arrested from Jhargram in connection to the Bhubaneshwar train hijack case of 2009.
Mahato had played a central role in the Lalgarh movement of 2009, where the PCAPA has acted as the frontal organisation of Communist Party of India, and generated support during the Lalgarh siege. He was also under investigation for the murder of a Communist Party of India leader, Prabir Mahato. Subsequently, Mahato was arrested in September of 2009 by the
West Bengal police under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
In February 2021, Mahato was released from prison after having served a 10-year sentence and was later made an office-bearer of the Trinamool Congress, crucial to the party’s campaign in the Jangalmahal region. Summons were again issued to him by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in early March 2021 in connection to the murder case of 2009. Arrest was prevented in this case by the High Court.
The arrest which was finally made by the NIA because Mahato was supposedly “evasive during questioning”. As per the agency’s First Information Report, the arrest has been made under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 121 and 121A (waging war against India), 506 (criminal intimidation), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 148 (rioting), as well as charges undermthe Railway Act. It is important to note that this arrest comes amidst the crucial West Bengal elections, leading many people to raise questions over the timing of the arrest, alleging that the summons made to him by the National Investigation Agency were “politically motivated”.
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said: “The matter is sub-judice and I will not be able to comment on this…But yes, the timing of his arrest is questionable as polling in all the Jangalmahal seats are not yet over.”