Bharatiya Janta Party’s district unit vice-president Jagat Pujari and another person were arrested in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh on the charges of being Maoist supporters, police said on Sunday (June 14).
The accused, Pujari, a native of Barsoor village, and Ramesh Usendi (32), were arrested on Saturday after they procured a tractor to allegedly deliver it to a hardcore Naxal, Dantewada Superintendent of Police Abhishek Pallava told PTI.
After receiving inputs that senior cadres from Abhujmaad area had handed over money to Ajay Alami, militia commander-in-chief, active in Indravati area committee of Maoists, for procuring some things, police swung into action, he said.
Based on the mobile phone intercepts, police kept an eye on some suspects, including Pujari, in the area, he said.
“On Saturday afternoon, police intercepted a newly-purchased tractor-trolley on Barsoor-Chitrakot route and rounded up Usendi, a native of Orchha area in neighbouring Narayanpur district, when he was allegedly going to deliver the vehicle to Naxals,” he said.
During the interrogation, Usendi revealed that Maoist leader Alami had given him ₹4 lakh to procure a tractor and told that Pujari will help him in the entire process, he said.
According to a report in NDTV, the Maoist leader carries a reward of ₹5 lakh on his arrest and the police seized a new tractor, worth ₹9,10,000.
Later, Pujari was nabbed from Barsoor. He confessed to his involvement in supplying various materials to the senior Maoist cadres in the region in the past, he said.
Apart from the tractor-trolley, some other agriculture equipment meant for Naxals were also recovered from the possession of the two accused, he said.
“Mobile phone intercepts of Pujari also suggest that he had been in contact with Maoists since the last several months,” the SP said.
They were booked under provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, Pallava said, adding that further investigation into the matter is underway.
The SP said that Maoists have been facing a crisis of ration and other essentials since the coronavirus-induced lockdown was imposed in March this year, which hit their supply chain.
They might have decided to cultivate paddy in interior forests and therefore, had planned to procure tractor and other farm implements, he added.
A media report stated that the local BJP leader has been involved in facilitating supply of goods and other items to Maoists for at least a decade.
Meanwhile, BJP’s district president Chaitram Attami said that party’s senior state leaders have been informed about the development and they will decide on the action to be taken against Pujari at the party level.
Pujari had been appointed as the district vice- president around five years ago. However, as no fresh appointment to the post was made after completion of his tenure, he was still holding the position, he said.
Meanwhile, the police in insurgency-hit Dantewada district have launched a novel initiative to encourage Naxals to give up arms and join the mainstream by urging them to return to their villages.
Under the initiative named in local Gondi dialect as lon varratu, meaning return to your village, the police have started putting up posters and banners in the native villages of the Naxals, who carry cash rewards on their heads, mentioning their names and making an appeal to them to become a part of the society.
The exercise was launched on Friday, police said.
“These posters and banners also mention the mobile numbers of local senior police officials so that those Naxals who are willing to surrender may contact them,” police said on Saturday.
“As a part of the initiative, a list of 13 Naxals, including four women, was pasted outside a panchayat building in Chikpal village,” SP Pallava told PTI.
“These ultras, hailing from Chikpal, carry rewards ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 8 lakh on their heads and are active in south Bastar,” he added.
“This is the first of its kind initiative started in the states Bastar region, which has been fighting the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) over the last three decades,” he claimed.
“In the posters and banners, we have mentioned the names of the cadres, their ranks and reward amount, along with a message urging them to quit Naxalism and avail the benefits of surrender and rehabilitation policy of the state government,” he said.
Pallava said that in many cases, villagers think that those who have left the village might have moved to neighbouring states in search of jobs, but disclosing the names of Naxals in public domain will help them identify those who have taken up arms.
“We are making a village-wise list of reward carrying Naxals mostly working in Sukma, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Rajnandgaon districts by consulting with the local police,” he said.
Presently, 25 worst Naxal-hit villages, from where more than five reward-carrying Naxals hail, will be covered under the initiative. Roughly 200 Naxals, who are from Dantewada, carry cash rewards on their heads, Pallava said.
Names of all such Naxals from the district will be assembled in one booklet, which will then be distributed to all public representatives, administrative officers and personnel of other departments, he said.
“We have also initiated interaction with the family members of these Naxals to persuade them to motivate their kin, who have joined the outlawed CPI (Maoist), to surrender and lead a normal life,” he said.
“In coordination with the district administration, a plan is also being prepared to construct small residential colonies in each village under government scheme for families of these Naxals and also provide other facilities to them,” he said.
These families will be treated as Naxal-affected and we would request them to give a public call to their kin, who have taken up arms, to shun violence and get rehabilitated in their respective villages, he added.
(With inputs from agencies)