Kundan Pahan, a CPI (Maoist) leader with an award of Rs 15 lakh on his head and 128 cases in police records, faced cameras supposedly for the first time with the confidence of a celebrity. Hours before on Sunday Pahan had surrendered in Ranchi, where in neighbouring jungles he had made a base and plotted several killings —- of several police officers and an MLA —- and also the looting of Rs 5.5 crore from a bank vehicle.
But Pahan, when he spoke to the media on Sunday, cut the figure of a disillusioned Maoist. His so-called “return to the mainstream” has given the police hope that it would serve as a blow to Maoists in Jharkhand. Pahan said on Sunday that the children of Maoist leaders were being sent to schools in big cities, while the rebel squad members are asked to furnish details of “soap, oil and rice”. “They only use the cadres for levy, killing,” he said.
Pahan’s admission indicated organisational tension was a major reason for his apparent fallout with the Maoists after relative inactivity in the last four years. He said the “Maoist Party (CPI-Maoist), which once had a clear ideology, was no longer the same entity.” Pahan came in touch with the rebels in the 1990s when as a boy his family being thrown out of their village land, allegedly grabbed by relatives in Khunti.
Police sources said by the late 1990s, Pahan, currently around 35 years old, had begun working in the squad of Mukhlal. For a year, his only job was to carry the luggage for the party. “Since he was not a regular member, he would not even get soap or oil,” a police officer said. After he was made a member, his group leaders told him they would have to arrange for their own finances. That is when he began looting trucks,” said the officer.
Pahan was given charge of the Bundu area in Ranchi district. In 2006, two years after the Maoist Coordination Committee (MCC) and the People’s War Group (PWG) merged, Pahan became a Jharkhand Regional Committee (JRC) member, then its political secretary in 2012.
For the police, the most dreaded phase of Pahan was 2008-09. He and his cadres murdered special branch Inspector Francis Induwar, shot dead the MLA of Tamar, Ramesh Singh Munda, killed DSP Bundu Pramod Kumar and five other policemen and looted Rs 5.5 crore from a cash van of ICICI Bank. They also looted Rs 8.5 lakh from a Central Bank branch in East Champaran in 2005 and Rs 1 crore from an SBI vehicle in Malkangiri.
According to Pahan, one of the reason for differences between him and other leaders was the division of the Rs 5.5-crore loot from the ICICI Bank vehicle. “There was a time when we would corner him, but he would escape. He had control over the locals and nobody shared with us the ground information. He always managed to give us the slip,” said ADG R K Mullik.