The arms seized from the arrested trio. (Samir Mondal)
Calcutta/West Midnapore, Nov. 6: Police today arrested two “hardcore Maoists” and an alleged informer in connection with Sunday’s Salboni blast.
The suspects landed in West Midnapore police’s net after raids in Salboni and Lalgarh last night.
A 7.65mm Bulgaria-made pistol, a 9mm pistol of Italian make, 43 bullets and Maoist literature have been seized from Sunil Hansda alias Rimil, 25, and Sunil Mandi, 30, and Bhagabat Hansda, 40.
“The police have come to know that Sunil Mandi and Sunil Hansda have been carrying on operations in several places and they are hardcore Maoists. Bhagabat Hansda is a Jharkhand Party activist,” home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti said after a meeting with inspector-general of police (law and order) Raj Kanojia.
He added that Bhagabat sent Maoists information on entry and escape routes and provided food and shelter.
Seven persons, including three school-going teenagers, had been arrested on Monday, a day after the explosion struck a convoy carrying Union steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan and his deputy Jitin Prasada, who were returning from the foundation stone-laying ceremony for the Jindal steel project in Salboni. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had crossed the spot a while ago.
According to district police superintendent Rajesh Kumar Singh, today’s arrests can lead to a “major breakthrough” as the three may give “vital leads” on Maoist operations in the Lalgarh, Jamboni, Belpahari and Binpur areas of West Midnapore.
“Sunil Hansda and Mandi are members of the Maoist guerrilla squad and used to frequent Jharkhand. Their interrogation can reveal their connections with Sasadhar Mahato, the absconding mastermind of the November 2 landmine blast” Singh said. “Of the 43 bullets seized, three had been used,” he added.
Mandi is accused of involvement in the killing of 11 policemen in Jharkhand’s Ghatsila area in August this year, the police said.
According to the police, the two pistols seized from the trio belong to Mahato. “Mahato used to keep in his possession the Italian and Bulgarian pistols. He would hand them over to Mandi and Sunil when he went somewhere,” an officer said.
The SP said the CID would probe the blast. Additional director-general, CID, Bhupinder Singh led a team to Salboni today.
CM smells ‘plot’
The chief minister today told his party leaders that the Salboni attack was part of a concerted effort to derail industrialisation in Bengal.
“They want to abort the Salboni steel project after the Nano pullout from Singur. But there is no question of going back on industrialisation and development despite all these threats,” a state CPM committee member quoted Bhattacharjee as saying.
“We have to reach out to the people, particularly the poor, who were with us but now harbour misgivings against us.”
With four municipal polls round the corner, the party has decided to focus on the “conspiracy to kill the chief minister with tacit support of the Opposition”.