The CBI on Sunday arrested four persons who were allegedly part of the CPM-backed gang that killed nine villagers in Midnapore West district on January 7.
This comes in less than a month after the case had been handed by the Calcutta high court from the state CID to the CBI.
The four were apprehended early morning in a village in the Goaltore area, a CPM stronghold, near the border of West Midnapore and Bankura districts.
They have been identified as Pintu Rai, Raju Rai, Jagannath Rai and Gandirban Rai. They are between 18 and 22 and belonged to the 20-member team that lived in the house of CPM activist Rathin Dandapat in Netai village, about 3.5 km from Lalgarh, 160 km west of Kolkata. The shots went out from the house.
"When we took up investigation, our focus was to arrest those who took an active part in firing on the villagers. The interrogation of the four is on and we expect to arrest the others shortly," said a CBI source from Delhi.
"Abani Singh and Aswini Chalak, who were arrested earlier, were in charge of the camp but did not fire on the protestors," the source added.
The Netai incident caused a loss of reputation for the CPI(M) just when the party was trying to recover its fast-eroding political ground. It also punctured the CPM’s claim that there were no harmad (derived from the Spanish word armada, which means pirates) camps in the Maoist-dominated area in the state.
CBI sources say the sleuths received the tip-off that some harmads were holed up in a village in the Goaltore area.
They, along with a large contingent of the Centre-state forces, raided the village on Saturday night.