October 11, 2014 10:12:02 pm
A senior Maoist leader arrested last month in Dumka district has told the police that his party killed Catholic nun Valsa John because her presence was an obstacle to the growth of the CPI-Maoist in the Santhal Pargana.
Another mystery seemed to have been solved when Sukhlal Murmu told his interrogators that his team did not know they were ambushing a Superintendent of Police-ranked officer when they killed Amarjit Balihar, in charge of Pakur district, in July 2013.
Sukhlal (39), known as Prabirda, was the Zonal Commander of Santhal Pargana for the CPI-Maoist when sister Valsa (53) – who hailed from Kerala – was murdered in November 2011. He was elevated to being a member of the Purvi Bihar Purvothar Jharkhand Special Area Committee created earlier this year on his request.
The BBC had quoted a Maoist spokesperson after sister Valsa’s murder claiming responsibility for the killing. The spokesperson alleged that the nun was working on behalf of mining interests. Prabir has repeated the charge, telling his interrogators that sister Valsa used to do “dalali” work for the PANEM Coal Mines Ltd., which was trying to operate in Pakur district.
However, Prabir has also said that Valsa’s death was premeditated, with the CPI-Maoist deciding about a year-and-a-half ahead to kill her. “There was a meeting of the Jharkhand Regional Committee held at Pirtand [of Giridih district] about a year and a half before the murder. Senior leaders Kishanda [Politburo member] and Prayaag were at that meeting. Kishan was apparently not murdering a woman who was religious, too,” said Dumka SP Anoop Mathew said. However in the end, the JRC resolved to kill sister Valsa,
Prabir has told police officers that Valsa was averse to an alliance with his party even though their interests aligned when it came to mining. Known for her paranoia, the nun even had her people follow Prabir once when he tried to get in touch with people in the PANEM area, trying to influence them. The Maoists, who were trying to use the popular anger against PANEM as a foothold to enter the region, were being pegged back by Valsa’s influence.
However, Prabir has said the Maoists saw a way in when Valsa dropped her blanket objection to the PANEM project, allowing the company to construct a road in the area. She later agreed to allow the project to go forward if adequate compensation was paid. The Maoists told people that Valsa was becoming a broker for the company.
The Maoists are understood to have used Valsa’s support to a rape survivor and the distribution of PANEM-related contracts as the reasons the murder on the night of November 15, 2011, though Prabir has said the date was merely the culmination of about a year and a half of planning. Prabir has told his interrogators that his party sent two cadres to be part of the lynch mob: Dawood, who has since been arrested and Karamchand, who passed away since. Prabir has claimed Karamchand was tasked with organising the attack team and masking it as a lynch mob. The lynch mob had left posters purportedly of Maoists after the attack.
Prabir has also claimed that he did not know that a squad led by him was about to kill an SP when they ambushed a police party in Dumka district on July 2 last year. It happened to be the convoy of Pakur SP Balihar, who was killed with five others. “He claims it was to loot arms and that Balihar was never on their radar,” said Dumka SP Mathew. The cause of the attack on Balihar has always been a mystery: uncharacteristically, Maoists have never come out with an explanation for it, even though Balihar was an adivasi himself. It has always been assumed that Balihar was an easy target as he headed a district unaffected by Maoism and had had his guard down.
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