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Maoists end lull before polls

Midnapore, Sept. 28: Jungle Mahal today witnessed the first killing by suspected Maoists since the security forces gunned down rebel leader Kishan last November, with a Trinamul activist shot dead in Jhargram in the dead of night.

Police suspect a Maoist plan to unleash violence in Jungle Mahal in the run-up to the panchayat polls to try and reclaim territory in their former citadel.

“It seems that by killing a Trinamul activist, the Maoists have tried to send across the message that they plan to again emerge as a force before the panchayat elections,” an officer said.

The choice of victim appeared symbolic: Girish Sahish, 42, had been with the rebel-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities but had switched loyalties as the Maoists’ fortunes fell and Trinamul’s rose.

Police sources, however, said the manner in which the farmer and part-time chit fund agent was killed suggested a “slight change” in the Maoists’ operational methods.

“Earlier they would come to a person’s home, drag him out in front of the whole family and shoot him dead,” an officer said.

“In this instance, they were hiding and waiting for Sahish. Perhaps that’s because they are yet to regain their hold on Jungle Mahal.”

A senior officer said the Maoists had in recent months been trying to rebuild their units in parts of Lalgarh and Jhargram in West Midnapore.

“We have reports that Maoist pockets are resurfacing in villages like Kalaboni, Andharia, Pukuria and Banstala in Jhargram and Khash Jungle, Kumarbandh, Tesebandh, Bankishole and Rangamati in Lalgarh,” he said.

Sahish and a neighbour had stepped out of their homes in Jambedia, West Midnapore, last night to water their fields. The neighbour returned after a couple of hours but Sahish did not.

His body, with a bullet through the neck, was discovered early this morning in a paddy field barely 500 metres from his home, with Maoist posters strewn around it.

Scrawled across the typical red-ink-on-white-paper posters were slogans such as “Beware Trinamul government” and “Immediately withdraw joint forces”. The posters bore the name of the CPI (Maoist).

The police said some villagers had heard a gunshot around 2am but no one dared step out — the fear of Maoists remains strong in their former stronghold. “Sahish watered his field late at night and the rebels probably knew it,” an officer said.

Police sources said Sahish had initially been a supporter of CPM youth wing DYFI. However, during the Maoist upsurge in Jungle Mahal, he was seen walking in marches organised by the People’s Committee.

But after the joint forces pushed the Maoists into a corner and Mamata Banerjee won last year’s Assembly polls, Sahish became a Trinamul activist, attending party meetings and joining marches.

An officer said the Maoists were furious at Trinamul for failing to keep its pre-poll promise of withdrawing the joint forces from Jungle Mahal and, instead, gunning for the rebels.

An intelligence branch official said the government had been forwarded inputs from the ground suggesting the Maoists might try to stage a comeback before the panchayat polls. “After Kishan’s killing, the Maoists went on the back foot. Several key rebels surrendered or were arrested,” the official said. “But the reports we have been receiving from the ground suggest they are trying to regroup before the rural polls.”