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The Kishan trackers

- A year on, quartet in hiding
The house where the four purported informers said they met Kishan last at a village in Binpur, West Midnapore, on November 23 last year. A day later, Kishan was killed. Picture by Pronab Mondal

Jhargram, Nov. 23: This day last year, the four young Maoists had taken perhaps the biggest decision of their lives: to tip police off about guerrilla leader Kishan’s location, which led to his killing a day later.

Exactly a year on, the four former rebels (referred to as A, B, C and D in this report because their names cannot be revealed) are still hiding at the Jhargram guesthouse where the police put them up the day they “betrayed” their leader. The area has many guesthouses.

They cannot return home for fear of reprisal from their former comrades. “I miss my wife, child and parents,” said A, whose family lives in a village in Binpur.

He said the quartet had helped the police because they were disillusioned with the Maoist movement and tired of the relentless killings.

The day after they told the police that Kishan was at Kapatkata village in Binpur, the Maoist top gun’s bullet-riddled body was found in the nearby Burishole forest. The security forces said he had been killed in an encounter.

B said that a few months earlier, some villagers the four were close to and who knew about their disillusionment had tried to persuade them to cooperate with the police.

“Initially, we turned them away, saying we could not betray our comrades,” B said. “But eventually, after secretly discussing the matter among us, we decided to help the police for the greater good. We were tired of the killings.”

For about 10 days before his death, Kishan had been hopping from one village to another in Binpur, constantly shifting base, A said.

“We were keeping track of him as we looked after his hospitality whenever he came to Binpur,” A said. “But he was not staying anywhere for more than a day. Sometimes he would spend only a few hours in a village, hold a meeting and move on.”

The police had told them the “right opportunity” would come when Kishan spent longer than a day at a village. The police could then properly mobilise their forces and encircle him.

“That opportunity came when Kishanji (the Maoists add the honorific when speaking about the guerrilla leader) came to Kapatkata and stayed for three days,” C said.

“He arrived on November 21 and was to leave on November 24, a very long stay by his standards. When we learnt of this, we informed the police.”

He said Kishan was meant to leave for Calcutta early on November 24 and stop over in Telugu Basti, Kharagpur, for some time.

C said that on November 23 morning, he visited Kishan at the house where he was staying in Kapatkata.

“I was not even sure that Kishanji was there since he used to shift base suddenly and without informing anyone,” C said. “But he was there that morning. He was in a foul mood. For some reason, he suspected that the police had become aware of his whereabouts.”

C said that in his presence, Kishan called up CPI (Maoist) state secretary Akash and asked him whether he knew of any troop movement near Kapatkata.

“Akash said he didn’t,” C said. “But after a few minutes, Kishanji went in and came out with his AK-47 slung across his shoulder. He went across to another house where his close aide Suchitra Mahato, who was accompanying him, was staying.”

Kishan and a few others started walking towards the adjoining Gosaibandh village on the edge of the Burishole forest.

“The four of us knew that by then the police had sealed the area off and were lying in wait in the Burishole forest,” B said. “We knew that Kishanji would have to be very lucky to slip through the police cordon after his stay in Gosaibandh.”

A said that after Kishan headed for Gosaibandh, the four of them quickly left Kapatkata for Jhargram, as the police had asked them to.

“The Maoist information network is superb. Sooner or later, they would have learnt that it was us who had informed the police,” C said.

The police had surrounded a large swathe of the forest immediately after receiving the tip-off.

“On November 24, we heard late at night that Kishanji had been killed in an encounter and Suchitra was injured,” A said. “We don’t know what happened in between.”