Aided by local contractors, a bond is flourishing between Maoists of Kanker district, Bastar, and politicians and top mining firms. An arrested contractor whom The Indian Express spoke to, Dharmendra Chopra, has named some key players in politics and mining, and claimed he helped the latter forge deals with Maoists.
Chopra, who claims a friendship with Maoists, has noted that no one working in interior Bastar can do without their help, and that they oblige companies and contractors in lieu of monetary and logistical support.
“I have had close links with political leaders Sohan Potai, Vikram Usendi and Mohan Mandavi. And they know I have contacts with senior Maoists,” Chopra told The Indian Express.
Asked what help he provided them and why they continued the friendship without informing the police, he said: “I have funded their election campaigns, managed things.You can imagine.”
All three are elected leaders from Kanker district. Potai is a BJP MP, Usendi a BJP MLA, and Mandavi a Congress MLA. Mandavi was a minister in the Ajit Jogi government, while Usendi, forest minister in Raman Singh’s second tenure, is expected to be given a berth in an upcoming cabinet expansion. All three leaders concede they know Chopra but claim they had no knowledge about his Maoist links.
Chopra was arrested last week near the Raipur airport when he was trying to escape in Potai’s vehicle. “I know Chopra for several years, but I had no knowledge about his activities,” Potai said. “He was in my vehicle that evening but for some other reason. As soon as my driver got to know that he was running from police, he asked him to get down.”
“I know him but have no idea about his activities,” Mandavi said. And Usendi echoed: “I know him but have no idea about his personal life. I have faced attacks (from Maoists). Had I known them, I wouldn’t have been attacked.”
The contractor has amassed property that includes a palatial bungalow in Raipur. He was the eighth person from Kanker arrested in three days, as Chhattisgarh’s top police officers in a press conference claimed to have busted a major urban network and mentioned the crisscrossing paths of politicians, companies and Maoists.
Chopra described his relationship with Maoists. “I first met them in the late 1990s,” he said. “I know Prabhakar and Gopanna (both senior Maoists) well. They sought my help and I bought and carried mobiles, tablets and medicines for them, arranged vehicles. Sometimes they paid me.”
Chopra named two mining companies, Jayaswal Neco and Godawari Power and Ispat Ltd, which he claims to have helped negotiate deals with Maoists. Both have leases in Kanker, where Maoists have declared mining banned. Chopra says Neco had made him their contractor to facilitate a deal and claims he introduced its officials to Maoists, and that Godawari’s contractor Manik Chand Jain provided him a 30 per cent share of profits for continued…