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NIA detains Jharkhand ex-minister ‘who paid Rs 4 crore to Maoists to kill 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 08, 2017 23:35 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kundan Pahan,Maoist Kundan Pahan,Ramesh Singh Munda
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 has detained former Jharkhand minister Gopal Krishna Patar in the murder case of rival Ramesh Singh Munda who was shot dead by Maoists nine years ago, NIA sources said on Sunday.

The murder of the Janata Dal (United) MLA, said the sources, was the result of unlikeliest of alliances – a politician joining hands with Maoists to eliminate a rival and a policeman passing on vital information to the rebels.

Patar, better known as Raja Peter, paid Rs 4 crore to the Maoists, who were upset with Munda over his frequent outbursts against them, NIA sources said.

“Searches are on at three premises in Jharkhand in connection with the case. Soon we will formally arrest Raja Peter,” an NIA official told Hindustan Times on Sunday.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity as the investigation was ongoing and he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The anti-terrorism probe agency has also detained assistant sub-inspector Sheshnath Singh, who was part of Munda’s security detail.

A former minister, 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. A day before he was shot, Munda had lashed out at the Left rebels at a public event.

For almost nine years, the investigation barely made progress as Pahan was on the run. The probe picked up pace after he gave himself up to police in May this year.

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

After Pahan’s surrender, Vikas demanded his father’s murder be probed by a central agency. “Though my father was shot dead by Maoists but we always had a doubt that his political rivals could be behind the murder,,” Vikas told HT.

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 (Rajesh) Munda,” the NIA official said.

But Peter was not the only one baying for Munda’s blood, he said. The rebels also wanted him dead for his anti-Maoist remarks and their central committee had decided to eliminate Munda, the official said.

“According to Pahan it was Peter who bankrolled the operation,” the official said.

Pahan was paid the promised Rs 4 crore but instead of handing over the money to his bosses, he kept most of it for himself, the NIA official said.

Pahan was not the only one betraying his cause.

“We suspect that ASI Singh passed information about Ramesh Singh Munda’s movement to Pahan,” the NIA official said, adding they suspected that Raja Peter put the policeman in touch with Pahan.

The NIA officials say Munda’s killing benefitted Peter politically.

He lost twice to Munda, in the 2000 and 2005 assembly elections. But in the by-election called after Munda’s murder, Peter scored a stunning victory in Tamar. He defeated chief minister Shibu Soren, forcing him to resign.

He rose to be a minister when BJP’s Arjun Munda was the CM between 2010 and 2013. He went on to lead the JD (U) in Jharkhand but switched sides to the BJP ahead of the 2014 state election.

The BJP, however, decided to give Tamar constituency to AJSU, which fielded Vikas Munda. Raja Peter fought as an Independent but lost to Vikas.

First Published: Oct 08, 2017 23:35 IST