Chhattisgarh Police on Tuesday said they have arrested Abhay Devdas Nayak, who was an “important part of the Maoist overground network” and part of the propaganda bureau of CPI(Maoist). They said his role extended to writing and disseminating press releases for the rebels.
The police also claimed that the 34-year-old had visited 15 countries, including those with “active rebel elements”, and was part of the Co-Ordination Committee of Maoist Party and Organisations in South Asia (COCMPOSA). A “lookout notice” had been issued against Nayak in May 2017 and he was arrested from the immigration counter of Delhi airport on June 1, they said.
Speaking to reporters in Bastar, IG Vivekanand Sinha said Nayak was an important link in the “urban Maoist network”. “Nayak would use modern technological techniques to keep his identity secret and actively did propaganda for the party via online pieces, press releases and writings with the aim to bring the youth into the Maoist fold,” the IG said.
Police officers said Bastar Police and State Intelligence Bureau had been tracking Nayak for nearly two years, and that he went abroad in March 2017 and again in May 2017, visiting Luxembourg, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, England, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, Russia, Vietnam and Nepal. D M Awasthi, Special DG, Anti-Naxal Operations, said, “We have been tracking all these leaders who give press statements …spokespersons… We analyse different email ids. Then we see that the top leaders who are communicating and the official spokesperson for the committee. During that analysis we found a few names. One of them was Abhay Nayak. There are more.”
Awasthi said they were investigating the exact purpose of these visits. “Whatever we have found out so far through our sources and through his own statements and records, the basic idea was to propagate Maoist ideology, criticising the government efforts to curb Maoism…He visited countries where some rebel elements exist… This can have international ramifications,” Awasthi said.
The police said Nayak visited Bastar twice recently, and with the success of his blog, he was made part of the CCOMPOSA. He was meant to stay in touch with Maoist organisations from across the world and he received funding for these activities, they said.
A file put together by the police says Nayak attended school in Bengaluru before completing BBA between 2002 and 2005 from Bangalore University and a Master in Psychology from Annamalai University through distance learning. He also did courses on stock trading, website design, HTML and Digital Marketing. The police said he would write on a website called indiamicrofinance.com on technology, business and finance, and also worked in some financial institutions in Bangalore “to hide his illegal activities”.
However, the case in which Nayak has been arrested has little to do with his online presence, with a case registered against the name “Abhay” under sections 120(B), sections 4,5 of Explosives Act and 38,39 of UAPA. A police release said that in 2017, an IED was planted by Maoists in Badrimahu area of Darbha, and that during investigations, they found Maoist pamphlets issued under the names of Abhay and Vikalp.
Asked if the case against Nayak was of him being part of a propaganda machinery or involvement in an IED incident, Awasthi said, “When you are involved in Maoism and connected with everyone, you are automatically part of all the crimes. But to (answer) this question specifically, this case was registered in 2013, and lookout notice was based on this. During filing of chargesheet, we may have different cases and we may look into all these sections… Now we have time for investigation…”
Pressed on what exact charges against Nayak were in the Darbha case, Awasthi said, “It is all explosives Act and all that. There was a blast in Bastar and they found some note, and on the basis of substance recovered, he was named. I can’t comment on these things. But a case was registered and was pending. Simultaneously we had all kinds of activities (investigation) going on. There was a case so there was no question of registering a fresh case…”
The press release issued by Chhattisgarh Police said Nayak was influenced by CPI (Maoist)’s Karnataka State Secretary Saket Rajan. “After Rajan’s death in 2005, and shutting down of People’s March, to solidify the movement, Nayak began naxal.revolution.blogspot.com. Given his technical expertise, he was given responsibility of propaganda wing and issued press releases first in the name of Azad and then Abhay, where it seems like he signed himself. We are investigating whether the signatures match,” the release said.
On Tuesday, Nayak spoke briefly to the press in the presence of IG Bastar where he denied working for Maoists: “Main ek website chaapta tha, uspe main news daalta tha.” Asked if he was ‘Abhay’, spokesperson for CPI Maoist Central Committee, Nayak said, “Nahi, vo alag aadmi hai, main alag hoon. Hum aapke tarah hi patrakaar hain, news chaapte hain Maovaadi ke baare mein. Hum freelance journalist hain. Online mein articles vagarah daalte hain.”
The police also said that during a search of his Bengaluru home, investigation based on the laptop, hard disks, and pendrives recovered have shown email interactions with Maoist leaders Gudsa Usendi, Vikalp and Shashi Patnaik, and DU Professor G N Saibaba and Rona Wilson, both arrested for alleged Maoist links.
Nayak’s father Devdas Damodar Nayak told The Indian Express over phone, “I am telling you, my son is innocent. He is a freelance journalist. We do not want to say much right now. Our lawyer is finding out about the case.”