The Chhattisgarh police on Friday said meetings had been held between Maoists and middlemen to strike a deal to lift the de facto ban on mining imposed by the rebels.
Police claimed huge sums of money had been paid to the Maoists on behalf of large mining companies. Mobile phones and laptops from a prominent Raipur-based electronics goods shop, too, were supplied to them, the police said.
According to the police, apart from the mining firms, government contractors, petty traders and local sarpanches, too, were involved in the alleged transactions.
The police claim rests on the alleged confession of a Kanker-based PWD contractor, Neeraj Chopra, who was detained on Thursday. Neeraj Chopra’s uncle, Dharmendhra Chopra, was arrested on Friday from Raipur airport — significantly, as he tried to escape in the vehicle of a BJP Member of Parliament.
Police said the uncle-nephew team was the lynchpin of the Maoists’ urban network module in the region. Police have also arrested six other people in the last two days.
“Chopra facilitated a meeting between senior Maoist Prabhakar and some persons from Andhra Pradesh for opening up the mines of Jayaswal Neco in Kanker,” ADG (Intel) Mukesh Gupta told The Indian Express.
Nagpur-based mining giant Jayaswal Neco holds iron ore mining leases in Kanker, but is hardly able to extract any ore due to the Maoist ban on mining in the region.
“We do not yet know if the company was directly involved in the negotiations, or some other contractors or middlemen held the talks. This is a matter of investigation,” Gupta said.
He also claimed that contractors of Godavari Ispat Ltd paid Rs 1.5 crore to the Chopras, who were operating as the Maoists’ middlemen. Godavari Ispat too has iron ore mining leases in Kanker. Gupta said it was being probed whether the money was paid on behalf of the company.
Raipur’s Laxmi Electronics is under the scanner because, according to the police, Neeraj has admitted to have purchased laptops, mobile phones and walkie talkies worth Rs 8 lakh from the store, and handed them over to the Maoists.
The Chopras and their associates also facilitated the stay of Maoists in cities and towns of Chhattisgarh, acted as the Maoists’ couriers, and transported arms for them, the police said.
The shop had stored over 20 drums of kerosene that fuelled the blaze and it quickly spread through the entire building.