Kolkata, May 12: Pro-Maoist tribal group Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) convener Chhatradhar Mahato and five of his peers were on Tuesday sentenced to life imprisonment by a West Bengal court. Mahato, Sukhsanti Baske, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu were handed down life sentences by the court of Additiol Sessions Judge (West Midpore) Kaveri Bose under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). They were also charged under various provisions of the Indian Pel Code (IPC) dealing with murder, crimil conspiracy, waging war against the state, and various other sections of the Arms Act and the Explosives Act.
Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chatterjee - two other PCAPA members - also got life sentences on charges of sedition. The duo was not charged under the UAPA. All six were pronounced guilty by the court on Monday. Before his arrest in 2009, Mahato was one of the prominent faces of the Maoist-backed tribal resistance in West Midpore district’s Lalgarh area, about 200 km west of Kolkata, against the then Left Front government.
Lalgarh was on the boil for over two years since November 2, 2008, when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada. Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals egged on by Maoists launched an agitation virtually cutting off the area from the rest of the district. The agitators torched offices of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, drove away its supporters and forced police to leave, thereby establishing a virtual free zone.
In June 2009, joint forces comprising paramilitary troopers and crack teams of state police reclaimed the areas and conducted intense operations to flush out the Left wing ultras. There were a spate of arrests while a number of PCAPA and Maoist leaders were killed in shootouts with the secuirty forces. (IANS)