Staged show slur on police - 'Surrendered' woman held in April: Maoist
Midnapore, Aug. 29: A woman Maoist squad leader who “surrendered” before West Midnapore police on Friday was in custody of the same law-enforcement force since April, a jailed rebel and a section of policemen have told The Telegraph.
Sova Mandi alias Soma alias Uma “surrendered” before West Midnapore superintendent of police Manoj Verma on Friday evening, saying that she had found her way to the town through “narrow jungle paths” from her hideout in the interiors of the forest where she was ensconced for the last four months after escaping from the clutches of her “tyrannical Maoists comrades”.
However, Kamal Mahato, a Maoist charged with murder and now lodged in Midnapore jail, has contested the claim. His version has been denied by police chief Verma but a section of policemen in Midnapore corroborated the rebel’s account, following which this newspaper decided to publish the report.
Kamal told The Telegraph: “On April 20, this year, I was travelling with Soma on my motorcycle. I was riding the bike and Soma was riding pillion. She was going to Midnapore town to meet someone and she had requested me to drop her there.”
According to Kamal, they were stopped by the police at Poradihi on National Highway 6, about 15km from Midnapore town. “The police had prior information, or a tip-off, that we would be travelling on that route,” Kamal said. “So, as soon as we reached Poradihi, the police stopped us and surrounded the bike. We were taken off the bike and whisked away by the police to the Midnapore police lines where we were kept.”
Kamal said that after being brought there, he did not see much of Soma except that he was “aware” that she was also there.
“I heard from the policemen that Soma had also been kept there,” Mahato said. “Like me, she was not officially arrested but simply kept there for questioning.”
Police chief Verma, however, said: “Soma had contacted us a couple of days ago and told us she wanted to surrender and we welcome the move. We had not detained anyone and then forced a surrender on them.”
Kamal said that although he was kept billeted at the Midnapore police lines since April 20, he was officially arrested only a few days back, produced in a Midnapore court on August 17 and remanded in judicial custody.
“The police had questioned me for so long and so many times that they did not even ask for police remand. I was sent to jail straightaway,” Kamal said. If indeed the Maoist facing a murder charge was arrested a few days ago, it was unusual for the police not to have sought his remand.
Kamal’s brother-in-law Mahendra Mahato said: “After Kamal disappeared, we searched for him far and wide and spoke to his comrades also, but no one knew where he was. It was only after he was put in jail that we come to know of his whereabouts.”
Mahendra said Kamal had told him in detail how Soma and he were picked up by the police and then detained but not officially arrested.
Some policemen also said that Soma was in police custody since April.
When she appeared before a few journalists days before her “surrender”, she had, in fact, been taken under police escort from the Midnapore circuit house to the fringes of a forest in Salboni, the policemen said. After the media interaction was over, she was taken back to the Midnapore police lines, they added.
A few weeks ago, the government had announced a rehabilitation package for rebels who turn themselves in. The build-up involving Soma and Friday evening’s “surrender” are being seen as an attempt by the police to suggest that the package is drawing a good response.