October 18, 2009

Foreign spies may have sneaked into Lalgarh

Caesar Mandal, TNN 17 October 2009, 11:00am IST
KOLKATA: Two English-speaking foreigners had sneaked into Maoist-dominated Lalgarh in April this year and stayed undetected for weeks after the security forces started their crackdown on June 18. Police and intelligence agencies have been thrown into a tizzy after this revelation.
The identities of these two foreigners have not yet been established, nor what they were doing there. The duo apparently changed locations repeatedly between Bengal and Jharkhand and went around asking villagers about the troubles in the area and whether they knew anything about Maoism. Officials here are worried about the possibility that they might be foreign intelligence agents.
What caught the police's attention first was two locally made toilet commodes discovered during a raid in Bahdodihi village near Ghatsila, Jharkhand, bordering West Midnapore and Purulia in Bengal. Police were immediately suspicious because local people do not use such things. They asked around if any outsiders were in the area. They were stunned to know that two gora sahibs' had been there since April. One of them called the other David'. They spoke in English and often talked to villagers with the help of an Indian interpreter.
Villagers of Patamda in Jharkhand told police that the foreigners regularly visited the local marketplace and even came to their homes, took pictures of the locality and talked to them about their poverty and Maoism. When students of local missionary schools asked the sahibs where they had come from, the duo said they had come to do some research work on behalf of a foreign agency.
Jharkhand Police found their traces in Jharkhand's Chakulia and Lalgarh in Bengal. When PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato was arrested from Lalgarh, police specifically asked him about the two foreigners. He apparently admitted knowing some foreigners were around, but claimed he had not met them. A lot of foreigners journalists and NGO workers had come to Lalgarh during the agitation, Mahato said.
Officers believe the mysterious duo entered Jangalmahal from the Jharkhand end, when police were busy preventing rights activists such as Medha Patkar and Gopal Menon from entering Lalgarh. Intelligence agencies indicate that these foreigners came in with the Maoists and had been working among the tribals for months before the Lalgarh operation.
The Bengal CID is sending a team to interrogate arrested Maoist leaders in Jharkhand to learn more about the foreigners and cross-check the information with what Mahato and arrested Maoist leaders have told them. According to police, Maoists have been getting funds from within the country and abroad including a Norway-based agency but the cops are yet to nail them.
CPI(Maoist) politburo member Kishanji, however, rubbished such claims and said that foreigners had never come to the organization during this phase. Police in two states, though, are sure about the presence of the sahibs' in Lalgarh and other Maoist-dominated areas.
Meanwhile, Police produced PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato before a Jhargram court for examining his handwriting. Mahato was asked for a specimen signature, but he refused to give one.
The prosecution, on October 1, had submitted a petition, showing some hand-written documents that were seized from Mahato's residence. It said that comparing it with the PCPA leader's handwriting was very essential, as police firmly believe that the documents were written by him.

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