Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s won a psychological battle in her war with the Maoists when CPI(Maoist) squad veteran Jagari Baske, one of the most prominent names in Bengal’s rebel domain, surrendered to the police along with her husband Rajaram on Thursday.
"They both surrendered to IG (IB) this morning and were later brought to me. I had a talk with them. The government would do everything possible for them including helping them start a home," said a visibly happy chief minister standing alongside the surrendered rebels.
"Their son Bahadur is very intelligent. We will place him at a reputed residential school like Ram Krishna Mission which has proper hostel facilities," Mamata added.
The area in front of the chief minister’s office was rich in symbolism on Thursday afternoon. The chief minister stood shoulder to shoulder with Baske and Rajaram, and told the media that she wants all the rebels to lay down arms and return to the mainstream.
The surrender of the duo could not have come at a more opportune moment for the state government. After more than a month of exchange of hostile words between the rebels and the chief minister, both parties are on the edge of a conspicuous armed conflict.
The chief minister who called all Maoists to follow suit and return back to the mainstream stated that all help would be provided. The surrendered rebels also used the podium to narrate their part of the story.
"I was 16 when they forced me to join them. I was from a poor family. They taught me to pull the trigger and kill. I killed many people and policemen. However, with age I realized they were wrong and they committed atrocities. I call all my comrades to give up the gun and join the mainstream with me," said a camera-shy Jagari.
Her husband Rajaram, who spent 10 years with the Maoists said he was initially inspired as the rebels talked about empowerment of the tribals. "But later I realized they are actually killing tribals, which opened my eyes and I decided to quit," said Rajaram.
When asked about the faltering peace talks the chief minister stated that it is a continuous process but the Maoists should have taken positive steps.
"Violence and peace cannot go hand in hand. I once again call them to shun violence and join the main stream," said Mamata Banerjee.
The sight of a prominent squad member surrendering before the chief minister is certain to have a psychological effect among the rebels in the Jangalmahal, said senior police officials.
Who is Jagori Baske?
Jagori Baske is one of the first batch of Maoist recruit in Jangalmahal who later became a legend and inspired others to join too. Her fathers residence is in Patamda in Jharkhand, but she grew up at her mothers place in Bokdubi village, Belpaharai in West Midnapore. At the age of 16 she joined the Maoists.
After training in arms and ammunition she led the Bandwan squad. Though Mamata said she had nine cases in Bengal including the attack on Silda camp which killed 24 EFR jawans, senior police officials in jangalmahal asserted that she was never involved in the February 15, 2010 attack on the camp.