| Squad leader Naru Maity. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Contai (East Midnapore), March 18: Ten men arrested with arms outside Nandigram have confessed they were on a CPM mission, and their cellphone records show the gang was in touch with key party leaders from East Midnapore while holed up in the brick kiln where the CBI found them yesterday.
The Telegraph got access to a copy of their statements recorded by Khejuri police and submitted in the Contai fast-track court of the judicial magistrate, which today remanded them in police custody till March 22.
“We were brought a few days ago by the leaders of a political party to attack the villagers and occupy areas in Nandigram. The leaders provided us arms and ammunition and arranged for our stay in three rooms inside the brick kiln at Sher Khan Chowk,” said the statement of Manoranjan Maity alias Badal, 38, one of the 10 arrested yesterday.
While the statements do not name the “political party”, the inspector-general of police (western range), Arun Gupta, said: “They have told us they are CPM activists.”
Along with arms and ammunition, CPM flags and helmets of the kind worn by police were seized from the hideout, triggering suspicion that the men had donned uniforms and joined security forces on the day of the firing. Cellphones found on them showed they were in touch with senior CPM leaders, sources said.
A CBI official who was part of the raid team said: “Other than the numbers that we have with us, Naru Maity, the team leader, has also told us that he was in touch with these leaders whose names we cannot reveal for the moment.”
The men, who said they are members of a Red Brigade, were produced in court as police struggled to keep a leash on Trinamul Congress protesters outside. “Shabai ke phansi din (hang the culprits),” the crowd chanted.
“Considering the gravity and enormity of the case and the seizure from them, the accused persons are being remanded in police custody till March 22,” the court said.
The preliminary investigation report the police submitted in court says: “They were preparing for a political fight against opposing political party. The leaders supplied them arms and ammunition.”
Action squads set up by the CPM are popularly known as Red Brigades. During bloody clashes with Trinamul supporters in the late 1990s up to the 2001 Assembly elections, the CPM had set up several such squads to take on the Opposition party.
The arrested men have told police more such gangs had arrived in and around Nandigram before Wednesday’s firing on villagers opposed to land acquisition that killed at least 14. “They will help in identifying political leaders instrumental in bringing them here,” an investigating officer of Khejuri police station said.
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