Prashant Kamble (28),a computer operator from Tadiwala Road slum,left home in November 2010 on the pretext of going to Mumbai for work. A couple of months later,he allegedly called up his family saying,I have joined Naxals…I am working with them in jungles… have got arms training and am using my computer knowledge for them. All doors to come back are closed. I have moved on…, Prashant told his brother Pravin,as per the statement recorded by state Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS).
Santosh Shelar,a 20-year-old painter from Kasewadi slums,Bhavani Peth,left home in November 2010 saying he was going to Mumbai for work and never returned. He too is suspected to have joined the Maoists in jungles.
Kamble and Shelar,both members of Pune-based cultural group Kabir Kala Manch,are named as accused by the ATS in a criminal case registered at Mumbai for their alleged Maoist links.
Besides,five more Kabir Kala Manch members Sheetal Sathe,Sachin Mali,Sagar Gorkhe,Ramesh Gaychor and Rupali Jadhav are also missing for over a year now. Another member,Dhavala Dengle (36),was arrested by ATS in May 2011.
Except Rupali,all others have been booked by the ATS under various sections of Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly spreading Naxal ideology. The ATS has so far arrested seven persons in the case. Among them is Angela Sontakke (42) alias Sadhana alias Rahi alias Iskara,the secretary of golden corridor committee of CPI (Maoists). Investigators say Maoists had increased their activities in Pune,considering it an opinion maker city.
Accordingly,Angela,wife of top CPI (Maoists) operative Milind Teltumbde,and her associates,started developing contacts with Pune youths,particularly tribals and Dalits,and allegedly brain-washed them into joining the Maoist movement. Investigators believe she indoctrinated some members of the Kabir Kala Manch into Naxal ideology and sent some for arms training in deep forest.
On specific instructions from CPI (Maoist) leadership,Angela had formed two cells to get in touch with college students,persons from literary field and party sympathisers from urban Pune. Cell A for artists allegedly comprised Sheetal,Sagar and Dhavala and Cell B for students comprised Sachin and Ramesh. They all were given code names.
Cell A conducted programmes like street plays in various slums. Cell B worked in colleges. They attracted youths through programmes on corruption,inflation and other social issues. They formed fronts like Ideal group and Desh Rakshak Yuva Manch in colleges and city outskirts,with the intention of attracting more youths towards the movement.
Parents of the Kabir Kala Manch members say their children are only artistes who wanted to work for the society and Dalit issues,but were misled by Naxal operatives.
Shelars father Vasant said,My son left school after ninth standard,but was very good at painting. He came in contact with Kabir Kala Manch members Sheetal,Sagar,Rupali who were staying in our neighbourhood in Kasewadi. He used to paint Dr Ambedkar and Mahatma Phule for their programmes. It is hard to believe he joined Naxals.
Kambles mother Laxmibai said,My son is a graduate from Dr Ambedkar College. He was interested in social work and hence joined Kabir Kala Manch. We questioned him about their activities but he said they were working for the cause of Dalits.
Kabir Kala Manch was founded by Amarnath Chandaliya in 2002. In his statement,he said he held meetings with Naxal operatives in cities and in jungles,but later severed contacts with them due to differences. Chandaliya said Sheetal,Sachin,Sagar,Ramesh and Dhengle joined Kabir Kala Manch in 2005 and they were drawn towards the Naxal movement. Alleged CPI (Maoists) operative Siddhartha Bhosale,an economics student from Fergusson College,had developed good relations with them. Bhosale was arrested in April last year. They had attended the 15-day study camp of CPI (Maoist) at Khed taluka in Pune district in mid-2010.