Jhargram police on Friday night arrested six persons, including a home-guard of the state police, on charges of impersonating Maoists and putting up posters to create panic among people in the Jungle Mahal districts of Jhargram and Bankura to run an extortion racket.
Police sources said the motive behind striking fear in the name of Maoists was to extort money from local traders, mostly ration dealers, by sending them threat letters. Police officers said the six were arrested after cops laid a trap to deliver the money that was sought from a trader in Jhargram on Friday.
“During the investigation, they admitted to posing as Maoists and putting up posters in various pockets of Jhargram and Bankura in a bid to create an atmosphere of panic among local people. They have also confessed that they were behind the posters announcing a strike by Maoists on April 8,” said Arijit Sinha, the Jhargram police superintendent.
Among the arrested persons, Bahadur Mandi is a home-guard posted at Jamboni police station, Shankar Mandal is a livestock seller, Maloy Karmakar makes rubber stamps, while Bablu Duley and Babulal Saren are farmers.
The police have started a case against the six on charges of extortion, issuing threats to people, intending to cause grievous harm and forging documents. The police have recovered “Maoist posters”, a gun and Rs 35,000 in cash from them.
The police said the arrests were a major breakthrough as it would help them prove that suspected Maoist activities in the region were actually a hoax. During her Jhargram visit in May, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said Maoist activities were “a thing of the past” and some people were trying to spread panic in the name of the extremists.
The posters that were found in Jhargram and Bankura in the past few months had created panic among the people to such an extent that a bandh call given by purported Maoists on April 8 turned into a total shutdown in several places of Jungle Mahal. The impact of the shutdown led the state government to reassess Maoists activities in their former bastions.
An active landmine had earlier been recovered from the Lalgarh area of Jhargram.