The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested Chhatradhar Mahato for his role in the Rajdhani Express hostage case in 2009 on Saturday. He is the ex-convenor of Maoist outfit People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA).
As per reports, Mahato was apprehended from his residence in Lalgarh in Jhargram district in the Jangalmahal region of West Bengal. He was arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and will be produced before a court in Kolkata. Mahato, a Trinamool Congress (TMC) groundworker, had been wooing the tribal population in Jangalmahal to vote for the party.
Chhatradhar Mahato is also accused in the brutal murder of a Communist Party of India (Marxist) worker in 2009. Earlier, he had moved the special court and successfully restrained his arrest by the NIA in the murder case. The central agency then filed an appeal with the Calcutta High Court, which directed Mahato to appear before the NIA’s Salt Lake Office at 11 am on Fridays, Mondays and Wednesdays.
Ex-Maoist turned TMC worker fails to appear before NIA
NIA summoned the former Maoist to appear before it on March 16, March 18 and March 22 but he did not comply. Mahato produced medical documents, claiming toothache, as a justification to not adhere to the summons. However, he was spotted campaigning for TMC during a rally of Mamata Banerjee in Jhargram. The central agency then moved to its special Court, seeking custody of the former Maoist turned TMC worker.
Chhatradhar Mahato served 10 years in prison
After the first phase of polls ended, a team of 40 NIA officers landed at his residence and arrested him. The former Maoist also served a 10-year-sentence for his involvement in bombing cases, landmine blasts and attempt to kill the then West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Following his release in February 2020, he joined the TMC and began campaigning for the party.
2009 Rajdhani Hostage crisis
On October 27, 2009, a mob of 300-400 Maoists blocked a Rajdhani Express, which was travelling from Bhubaneshwar to New Delhi. The incident took place at Banstala railway station in the West Midnapore district. The train was halted for about 5 hours, in the backdrop of the arrest of Chhatradhar Mahato.
A Central Reserve Police Force officer said, “This is not a sudden reaction by agitators, but was very carefully planned with 25 armed Maoists guiding the agitators to block the tracks forcing the Rajdhani to halt at Banstala halt in West Midnapore district.” The Maoists had warned the locals to comply else face punishment in people’s court. They first stopped a goods train, followed by the Rajdhani Express.
They assaulted the train’s driver, broke window panes, and looted the pantry, bedsheets and blankets. After a joint team of 20 West Bengal police personnel and a 150-CRPF contingent intervened, the Maoists fled and the passengers were secured.