In Chandrapur, people remember Arun Bhanudas Bhelke (38) and Kanchan Nanaware (31) as influential youth leaders of the Deshbhakti Yuva Manch (DYM), which was later branded as a “front organisation” of the Maoists. Arrested in Pune by the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) in September 2014, the “Maoist” couple is now lodged in Yerawada jail. The ATS recently filed a chargesheet against them in Shivajinagar court.
According to the ATS, both Arun and Kanchan are graduates. Arun’s family lives in a small house in Ambedkar Ward, Ballarsha, in Chandrapur district. His father teaches in a private school, while brother Ajay is an autorickshaw driver and another brother Abhay is a masonry worker.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Ajay Bhelke said: “Arun had been fond of singing, oratory since childhood. He did social work, raised voice against injustice through DYM. It is hard to believe he became a Maoist. He left home a few years ago for working in Mumbai, but never returned. He did not contact us. We got to know about his arrest from the media. We did not go to Pune as it needs a lot of money to travel.”
Kanchan’s family resides in a plush house in Sarkar Nagar in Chandrapur. Her father held a senior position in a bank. A family member said she used to remain disturbed as she was suffering from a heart disease. “But she became active after joining DYM during college days. Freedom fighter Bhagat Singh was her ideal… She left home for her movement. We do not maintain any contact with her now. We only focus on the future of her siblings.”
A college teacher who knew her said: “Kanchan has a strong willpower and revolutionary thoughts. I still remember her speech in which she said she might not live long because of her illness, but her remaining life is dedicated to the movement.”
Police said Arun allegedly got attracted to Maoist ideology at a young age. He became the president of DYM later. Besides cultural activities and agitations, Arun started the College Katta magazine in 2003, with a tag line, “College kattyavarun krantikade (from college campus to revolution)”. Arun networked with many college students and teachers to write for the magazine sold for Rs 5 per copy.
According to the police, Kanchan was among some of the DYM members who were indoctrinated to join Maoist ranks. Sources said Arun and Kanchan got married as per the Maoist party’s wish to encourage inter-caste marriages. In January 2008, they were arrested under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in an arms recovery case registered at the Ramnagar police station in Chandrapur. After being released on bail, said the police, the couple went underground and operated under aliases of Rajan and Bhoomi. Meanwhile, they were booked under another UAPA case at Duggipur police station in Gondia in 2010. Probe revealed that the couple took arms training in jungles. Despite illness, Kanchan travelled in forests. She looked after first aid, medication and other tasks. Kanchan would get medicines from towns for the cadres in jungles.
The Golden Corridor
In 2012, the ATS had arrested Angela Sontakke, secretary of Golden Corridor Committee of CPI-Maoists, which aims to recruit youths from urban ares of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Investigators suspect Arun and Kanchan took over Angela’s work after her arrest. Arun had allegedly brought the absconding Kabir Kala Manch artistes in this case from Pune to the jungles in Gadhciroli.
As per the ATS chargesheet, Arun and Kanchan stayed at different locations in Mumbai, Raigad and Pune with different names. They managed to get help from a local corporator from Govandi, Mumbai, to procure fake PAN and Aadhaar cards in the name of Aditya Patil and Sonali Patil. In Chowk village in Raigad, they acquired the names of Akash and Shital Bhagat. In 2013, Kanchan got admitted to Kolikaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital in Mumbai as Shital Bhagat for treatment.
Police said they were secretly trying to spread Maoist ideology of armed struggle against the government among the youth from slums and weaker sections. They are suspected to have provided shelter to Maoist aides. At Karjat in Raigad, a woman Archana lived with them. They also did small jobs. They were residing at Kanhe Phata in Maval taluka, Pune, when they were arrested. Material like CDs meant for Naxal training, Maoist literature, documents with code language, medicines, a laptop, four cell phones and cash were seized from them.
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