July 7: A Maoist was arrested today from Orissas Baripada for his involvement in the Jnaneswari Express sabotage with police claiming he was a bigger catch than Bapi Mahato, the main accused.
Manik Mahato, 27, who was arrested with his cousin Bijoy Mahato during a joint operation by Bengal and Orissa police, was one of the main planners of the sabotage in which 150 people were killed, the police said.
He is a bigger catch than Bapi Mahato. We got information about Manik while interrogating Bapi, said director-general of police Bhupinder Singh. Manik used to oversee Maoist activities in 10 or 12 villages in Jhargram, Singh added.
We had been on the lookout for Manik for quite some time. Yesterday, we received information that he was hiding at a relatives house in Baripadas Krishnachandrapur village. We have arrested him, West Midnapore police chief Manoj Verma said.
A Midnapore police officer said Manik was involved in several murders, abductions and extortion bids in Jhargrams Sardiha and Manikpara areas.
Two days before the Jnaneswari sabotage, Manik had allegedly met Bapi and Umakanta Mahato in the house of a Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities member to plan the attack. Manik had also supervised the removal of Pandrol clips from the tracks, the officer said.
Buses remained off the roads and shops and schools were closed in Jungle Mahal today as the Maoists began a two-day bandh to protest the killing of their leader Azad in Andhra Pradesh.