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Maoists in Western Ghats: part-II: ‘Wanted’ Thane man key Maoist operative in state

A former CPI (ML) Naxalbari member, Sanjay Deepak Rao was jailed twice in Dhule and Bangalore

Written by Chandan Haygunde | Pune |
Updated: December 25, 2015 11:15:48 pm
Sanjay Deepak Rao Sanjay Deepak Rao

Investigations have revealed that Sanjay Deepak Rao (52) of Ambernath in Thane is leading the operations of the Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee (WGSPZ) of CPI-Maoists in Maharashtra.

Rao’s name cropped up during the interrogation of top Maoist leader Konath Murlidharan alias Ajith alias Thomas Joseph (61) and his “courier” Ismail Hamza alias Jamesh Mathew (25), who were arrested by the Maharashtra ATS from Talegaon Dabhade in Pune on May 8, 2015.

Rao has been named as a wanted accused in the chargesheet filed recently by the ATS.

Sanjay Rao’s history sheet

Having developed a “ground network” in Maharashtra, Rao has been into left-wing extremist (LWE) movement since mid-1990s. When some Communist groups of Kerala and Maharashtra came together to form the “Maoist Unity Centre” in 1997, Rao was made the secretary of its state unit.

After the formation of CPI (ML) Naxalbari in 1999, Ajith and Rao became secretaries for Kerala and Maharashtra respectively. Rao headed the “leading committee” of CPI (ML) Naxalbari in Dhule and Nandurbar districts. Ajith got promoted as national secretary of the outfit later.

Rao used different aliases like Vijay and Anand Sahasrabuddhe and claimed to be a social activist working for tribals and Dalits. He was arrested on charges of sedition in three cases in Dhule and Nandurbar in July-August 2000 and was later convicted. After being released from jail in 2003, he was again arrested at Bellary in Karnataka and jailed in Bangalore for three years. After being acquitted and released in 2009, he again went underground. He got married to Sangeeta, a Maoist from Andhra Pradesh.

Rao was a part of important meetings of CPI (ML) Naxalbari, including the one at Thrissur in Kerala in August 2013 where the outfit decided to merge unconditionally with CPI-Maoists and raise an armed struggle.

After the merger in May 2014, Ajith became a Central Committee (CC) member of CPI-Maoists and got the task for publication of propaganda material, integration of cadres of CPI-ML Naxalbari with the WGSZC and carrying out party work in urban areas including Pune and Mumbai. CPI (ML) Naxalbari leaders from Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, including Jhony alias Benny, Ravi slias Srinivasan, C P Moidheen, Shivkutty alias Rajan Mujib alias Narayan and Sanjay Rao became a part of the WGSZC, having armed dalams in the Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala trijunction area.

Focus on Western Ghats

Probe revealed that Ajith and Rao discussed the Gadgil and Kasturirangan reports on Western Ghats during a meeting at Thane Railway station in March 2015. Police said in an article “Message to the Milan International Conference in Solidarity with the People’s War in India,” dated September 10, 2014, the CPI-Maoists announced their plan to form a new “war front” in Western Ghats.

Apparently, in December 2014, the Maoists carried out attacks on KFC and McDonald’s outlets in Kerala. Ismail is also named as a suspect in this case.

Meanwhile, with Rao’s help, Ajith increased his activities in and around Pune, Mumbai and Thane, major cities in Western Ghats region. Rao introduced Ajith as “Thomas Joseph” and Ismail as “James Mathews” to his contacts Ketan Kamat, a builder from Pune, and Sameer Sane, a government employee and an anti-superstition activist from Thane. Sane already remembered Ajith as “Sunny” as the duo had earlier met around 1990.

ATS probe revealed that Rao’s contacts helped Ajith and Ismail in getting a flat on rent in Lotus Villa, Talegaon Dabhade. They also provided SIM cards and Internet dongles in their names to Ajith.

Investigators suspect that after Ajith’s arrest, Rao remains active with different aliases.

The crackdown

Investigators say that Ajith’s arrest is a setback for LWE activities in Western Ghats. The ATS had earlier arrested Angela Sontakke, secretary for Golder Corridor Committee, which aims to spread Maoist ideology in urban areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat, in 2011. Some activists of the Pune-based cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) and Deshbhakti Yuva Manch (DYM) of Chandrapur were arrested along with Angela.

The ATS had also arrested Arun Bhelke, a senior Maoist cadre and founder of DYM along with Kanchan Nanaware in Pune in September 2014. They had managed to get help from a local corporator from Govandi in Mumbai in procuring fake PAN and Aadhaar cards in the name of Aditya Patil and Sonali Patil. Probe revealed they were trying to indoctrinate Dalit youths from Pune slums towards Maoist ideology of armed struggle against the government. Also, just before Ajith’s arrest, a Maoist leader Roopesh, his wife Shyna and their aides were arrested in Andhra Pradesh in Kerala in May this year for attacks on KFC and McDonald’s outlets.

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