Pro-Maoist activist held for role in murder cases


Kolkata : A pro-Maoist activist, wanted in several murder cases and suspected to be involved in the Gyaneshwari Express sabotage, was arrested Friday afternoon in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district, police said.

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“Ashwani Mahato – an active member of pro-Maoists tribal body Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) – was arrested from Muraboni area near Manikpara in Jhargram sub-division,” Jhargram Police superintendent Praveen Tripathi said.

“Ashwani was wanted in as many as 10 cases, including murder, sedition, looting and damaging government properties in Jhargram area,” he said.

A senior police officer said: “Earlier, Ashwani used to work as a gangman in the railways on contractual basis. He might be involved in the Gyaneshwari Express tragedy in which 148 passengers were killed.”

The Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Express ran off the rails May 28 near Jhargram after a portion of the tracks was sabotaged allegedly by the Maoists. A speeding freight train then rammed into five derailed coaches of the Gyaneshwari, resulting in high casualties.

“As Ashwani was experienced in track maintenance work, he might have played a key role in opening the pandrol clips (used to fix the rail to the sleeper) that caused the derailment of the Gyaneshwari Express,” said the officer.

“During interrogation of the suspects arrested so far, it was revealed that Ashwani participated in the meeting at Manikpara, where details of the sabotage were discussed. The prime accused like Bapi Mahato, Umakanto Mahato and Manik Mahato presided over the meeting,” the police officer said.

“We are investigating the matter. If his involvement in the railway sabotage is proved he will be handed over to the sleuths of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the incident,” Tripathi said.