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Kolkata Police Denies CBI Access To Question Surrendered Maoist And Murder-Accused Ranjit Pal

Pal, a former CPI (Maoist) member, allegedly killed JMM MP Sunil Mahato in 2007.

03/02/2017 10:23 AM IST | Updated 03/02/2017 10:38 AM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the West Bengal government authorities are not getting along particularly well these days. There's more proof of it, indicated by the fact that Kolkata Police has not allowed the CBI to interrogate surrendered state committee member of the CPI (Maoist) Ranjit Pal in connection with the investigation of the murder of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MP Sunil Mahato.

Mahato was murdered on 4 March 2007 at Jharkhand's Bakuria, about 40 km from Jamshedpur. A state committee member, Pal used to operate in both West Bengal and Jharkhand, and has been involved in the movement for the last 17 years. He and his wife Anita, also a Maoist, surrendered before the West Bengal government on 25 January.

Following Pal's surrender, several state and Central government agencies have expressed their wish to interrogate him. But while some agencies were allowed access to the surrendered Maoist, the CBI wasn't. Currently, Pal and his wife are under the custody of Kolkata Police's Special Task Force. According to some reports, the Jharkhand Police wants to take him into its custody in connection with Mahato's murder.

Pal is charged in about 50 cases, which includes murder, abduction, extortion in Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore districts of West Bengal as well as in several other cases in Jharkhand. One of the most prominent among these is the murder of JMM MP Sunil Mahato. A squad of 12 members had been formed by the Maoists to kill Mahato. Three others, including Mahato's two bodyguards, were also killed while they were all watching a football match.

A state committee member, Pal used to operate in both West Bengal and Jharkhand, and has been involved in the movement for the last 17 years. He and his wife Anita, also a Maoist, surrendered before the West Bengal government on 25 January

The background to the murder dates back to 2003 when a people's committee, the Nagrik Suraksha Samiti, was formed in Jamshedpur at Gurabandha in Dumuria, Jharkhand, backed by the state police to combat the Maoists. Dhanai Kisku and Shankar Hembrom were leading the committee against the People's War Group (PWG) and, according to the Maoists, nine members of the PWG squad along with five villagers were killed by the committee members.

As Mahato was mobilising the campaign with this committee and its activities against the Maoists, he had become the target of the Maoists. At Keshorpur, inside the forest known as Nishijharna Pahar, Koteshwar Rao, alias Kishanji, had chalked out the plan to kill Mahato and Hembrom. The plan had been ratified by the party's central committee. A squad was formed and it was executed by the Maoists according to the plan. The CBI later took up investigation of this case.

Speaking to HuffPost India, Pal claimed that even though he did not kill Mahato, his name figured in the case because he was popular in the area. "The local people knew me, and so they thought I may have been part of the team," he said. So when the case was registered, Pal became an accused in the case.

Now that Pal has surrendered and is under the Kolkata Police's custody, the CBI wanted to interrogate him. Apparently, the Kolkata Police and the CBI authorities had a word before Pal's surrender and it was understood that the CBI would not arrest him in connection with the Sunil Mahato murder case.

Over the past few years, hundreds of Maoists have surrendered before different state governments. As soon as the Maoists surrender, the states generally go slow on their cases.

According to the surrender-cum-rehabilitation scheme of the Central government, "trial of heinous crimes committed by the surrenderee may continue in the courts. The States may also consider withdrawal of prosecution on a case to case basis depending upon the antecedents and merits of the surrenderee". This Central government policy has been adopted by the states where Maoists have a presence. Over the past few years, hundreds of Maoists have surrendered before different state governments. As soon as the Maoists surrender, the states generally go slow on their cases.

Since the Central and state governments, as a matter of policy, want Maoists to surrender, there is generally no dispute between state and Central government agencies, or between different state governments, over a surrendered Maoist.

A Maoist cadre may have cases against her/him being investigated by various agencies, but usually a state or Central agency is not known to arrest a surrendered Maoist in custody of another agency. However, a senior officer said that this is a grey area and nothing is clearly defined officially. There are surrendered Maoists who continue to draw salary from the state police while cases against them are being tried in different courts.

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