Giving a major blow to the Maoist movement in West Bengal, the most prominent woman figure of the state’s Maoist movement, Suchitra Mahato, wife of slain Maoist commander Sashadhar Mahato, surrendered before the state administration at the Writers’ Building on Friday.
“It’s a major development that a leader of her stature has responded to the peace process and returning to the mainstream,” said chief minister Mamata Banerjee, while addressing a media conference with Mahato and her recently married husband, Prabir Garai, standing beside her.
“I’m happy to quit the Maoist politics and return to the mainstream,” Mahato said, disagreeing to divulge anything else about her change of mind or the process of surrender. During the last one year, she acted as the Jhargram district committee secretary of the CPI(Maoist) and took the name Baha Tudu.
“I was not arrested before. I surrendered today,” the 37-year-old one-time-terror told reporters, adding, “I’m ill. I can’t say anything more.”
The state has seen a number of Maoist cadres and leaders surrendering before the police since the change of reign in the Writers’ Buildings, with Mahato and Jagori Baskey being most prominent among them.
Mahato had been close to slain Maoist politburo member Kishenji and is accused in as many as 16 cases, including the Silda attack on February 15, 2010, which killed 24 Eastern Frontier Riffles jawans. She was also one of the prime recruiters of women in the clandestine outfit.
“Government’s development activities in the state are not the only reason for her to surrender. There are many other reasons. She may elaborate those later,” Garai said.
Mahato reportedly suffered bullet injuries during the controversial encounter death of Kishenji at the Burishole forest on November 24 and had been fleeing the cops since then. On February 25, this year, she tied knots with Garai, a neighbour at her native village Dhantala at Lalgarh.
Her first husband, Maoist commander Sashadhar Mahato (who was a member of CPI(Maoist)’s Eastern Regional Bureau that looks after operations in five states), died in an encounter on March 10, 2011.
This surrender, however, raised questions whether Mahato surrendered before the intelligence branch (IB) on Friday only, as being claimed by the state government Mahato herself, or she was arrested earlier and later she agreed to surrender.
Doubts increased as the chief minister tried to shield her from uneasy questions from the media persons throughout the press meet. While the government officially said that she was fleeing from one village to another since surviving the Burishole encounter and recently agreed to surrender, another section of the police claimed she was picked up during the operation to catch Kishenji.