A Maoist in Jamshedpur Jail, when interrogated by Jharkhand Police, confessed to handing over Rs. 2 lakh to Choton Das, a human rights activist who was named by chief minister Mamata Banerjee as one of six interlocutors in July 2011 and whose job in Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) was also restored by her order.
Das is also state secretary of the Bandi Mukti Committee in West Bengal, and the money Pradip Gayen handed over to him was extorted from a contractor working on a project on Subarnarekha River. Sleuths maintain that Gayen alias Benoy Das was formerly a member of Bandi Mukti Committee.
Das denied having taken any money from Gayen, whom he denied knowing, or any Maoist whatsoever. “I did not receive any money from Maoists. Our organisation, Bandi Mukti Committee, never collects money from any party, or other organisation. This is a false allegation framed by the police and the person concerned. A senior officer of the West Bengal police contacted me on the telephone and told me the name of the arrested Maoist. I do not know any such person,” Das told HT.
Over the years, Das has been under the scanners of intelligence officials, and sleuths even obtained video footage of him visiting a Maoist camp inside Saranda forests in Jharkhand in 2002. Sleuths claim Das has been using the money to fund various activities of the frontal organisations of CPI(Maoist) in West Bengal and to meet the expenses of litigations of several jailed Maoists.
Das is an assessment inspector at the KMC. During the Left Front regime, he was suspended in May 2008. However, Das got back his job in October 2011 after Mamata Banerjee came to power.
West Bengal police directorate received Gayen’s interrogation report from Jharkhand Police in the third week of July and accordingly, the director general of Bengal Police, Naparajit Mukherjee, directed Bani Brata Basu, additional director general of state intelligence branch, on July 24 to start an inquiry into the sources of rebel funds and find out their associates.
“I did visit the Saranda forests, where Maoists had camped. But it was in 2002 and I was invited as a guest speaker at the state conference of Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). Moreover, MCC was not a banned organisation then,” Das argued.
Jharkhand Police arrested ‘hardcore Maoist activist’ Gayen on June 13 near Galudih railway station in Jharkhand. According to his statements, he paid Das R2 lakh in June. Gayen told interrogators, that he was instructed by Maoist leader Shyam Sinku alias Shyam Hoe, member of Gurabandha-Mayurbhanj zonal committee and former commander of Dumuria squad of CPI (Maoists), to hand over the money to Das.
Gayen, 28, hails from Talpukur village of Sonarpur area at South 24-Parganas district. He joined CPI(Maoist) in 2006 and also received militant training near Konkadasa village on Dalma Hills of East Singhbhum district in 2007 along with about 100 other trainees.
Gayen told police that Maoist leaders had given him the money, extorted by squad member Raju Mahato, at Galudi.