A Midnapore court Tuesday sentenced Chhatradhar Mahato, the face of the Lalgarh movement in West Bengal and the convener of Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities), and five others to life imprisonment after holding them guilty under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for their alleged links with Maoists.
Fourth Additional District and Sessions Judge Kaberi Bose passed the order against Mahato, his associates Sukhsanti Baske, Sambhu Soren, Sagun Murmu, Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chatterjee, after it had Monday held them guilty and convicted them under several charges including waging war against the country, sedition, criminal conspiracy, and other sections of the arms and explosives Act.
While Mahato, Baske, Soren and Murmu were convicted under the UAPA, the charge was dropped against theother two. The trial lasted six years.
Mahato remained quiet in the court room when he was asked to speak in his defence.
Mahato’s wife, Niyati, said she will challenge the judgment in high court. Terming Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as “one time ally of the Lalgarh movement” led by Mahato, Niyati said, “This is an insult to the people of Junglemahal. My husband always worked for them. He started a movement against the deprivation of tribal people. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had then held several meetings with my husband and supported him in the movement. However, after she came into power she disowned us. She slapped several charges against him. But we will not give up and appeal in a higher court”.
Public Prosecutor Rajkumar Das had Monday pleaded for life imprisonment for all the six for being associated with Maoist movement in Lalgarh between 2008 and 2011. A number of people opposing the movement were killed during the period. Mahato was one of the most recognised faces of Lalgarh movement.
The tribals under him had ‘liberated’ Lalgarh and had a free run for nine months as police withdrew from its camps. Later, central paramilitary forces and the police recaptured the areas from the grip of Maoists who were assisting the tribal agitation. The agitation had began after police raided tribal homes and allegedly, arrested schoolboys shortly after the then CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada narrowly escaped a landmine blast at Salboni on November 2, 2008.
CID, which had claimed it had evidence of Mahato’s close links with the Maoists, arrested him in an undercover operation on September 26, 2009.