NIA arrests Jharkhand ex-minister for ‘paying Maoists’ to eliminate rivals | india-news | Hindustan Times
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NIA arrests Jharkhand ex-minister for ‘paying Maoists’ to eliminate rivals

Former minister Ramesh Singh Munda was shot dead in the Bundu town of his Maoist-hit Tamar constituency on July 9, 2008. Local Maoist leader Kundan Pahan emerged as the main suspect in the attack.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2017 22:21 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
MLA Vikas Singh Munda on a dharna in protest against alleged liberal police action on Kundan Pahan who is the main suspect in the murder of Vikas’ father, Tamar MLA Ramesh Singh Munda, on May 14, 2017.
MLA Vikas Singh Munda on a dharna in protest against alleged liberal police action on Kundan Pahan who is the main suspect in the murder of Vikas’ father, Tamar MLA Ramesh Singh Munda, on May 14, 2017.(Diwakar Prasad/HT Photo)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested former Jharkhand minister Gopal Krishna Patar aka Raja Peter on Monday on the charge of conspiring with Maoist insurgents and paying them to kill a political rival nine years ago.

Janata Dal (United) legislator Ramesh Singh Munda, also a former minister, was shot dead in July 2008 in Bundu town of Tamar constituency, which is in the middle of the state’s insurgency hotbed.

The politician had allegedly angered the Maoists with his frequent and scathing criticism against the group. A day before he was killed, Munda lashed out at the rebels at a public event.

Munda was Patar’s biggest rival and he lost to him in the 2000 and 2005 assembly elections.

But in the byelection after the murder, Patar scored a stunning victory in Tamar. He defeated chief minister Shibu Soren, forcing him to resign.

It was the intricacies surrounding the murder that prompted an investigation by the anti-terrorism agency, which suspect rival Patar paid Rs 4 crore to the Maoists to kill Munda.

Before his arrest, the NIA detained Patar for questioning as the investigators suspect an unlikely alliance — a politician, a policeman and Maoists — was forged and these people worked in tandem to eliminate the politician.

The agency had arrested an assistant sub-inspector of Jharkhand police, Sheshnath Singh, who was a part of Munda’s security. He was accused of passing information about Munda’s travels to Maoists.

The investigation barely moved for almost nine years and main suspect Kundan Pahan, a Maoist leader of Tamar, was on the run. The probe picked up pace after he surrendered this May.

It also helped that Munda’s son, Vikas, was the Tamar MLA and his All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) is a part of the ruling BJP-led alliance.

After Pahan’s surrender, Vikas demanded an investigation by central agency into his father’s murder.

“We always had a doubt that his political rivals could be behind the murder,” he said.

The NIA began the probe in July and questioned Pahan for more than two weeks.

“During interrogation, Pahan told us he took Rs 4 crore from Raja Peter to assassinate Munda,” an agency officer said.

The rebels too wanted him dead for his anti-Maoist remarks and their central committee had decided to kill the legislator, he said. “According to Pahan, it was Patar who bankrolled the operation.”

But the Maoist leader allegedly pocketed most of the money instead of handing the entire amount to his bosses.

NIA officers said Munda’s death benefitted Patar politically.

After winning the bypoll, he became a minister when chief minister Arjun Munda of the BJP ruled the state between 2010 and 2013. He went on to lead the JD (U) in Jharkhand, but switched sides and rejoined the BJP ahead of the 2014 state elections.

But the BJP left the Tamar seat for the AJSU Vikas Munda to contest. Patar fought as an Independent but lost to Munda.