Nearly four years after Maoist leader Kishenji was gunned down in an encounter in West Bengal’s Junglemahal area, Maoists have started trickling back into the forest-covered terrain of the state. According to inputs by both Central and state agencies, a number of top Maoist leaders from Bengal and Jharkhand have been spotted making their way into villages. They went missing after Kishenji — member of the CPI (Maoist) Politburo and Central Military Commission — was killed in an encounter with the security forces on November 24, 2011.
His death severely affected the rebels’ backbone in the region. Since November 2011 peace had returned to Junglemahal — the region stretches across three districts of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore in West Bengal — as other leaders were forced to go into hiding. Security agencies have received inputs form ground-level sources that in the last few days, regional commanders and leaders such as Bikash, Shyamal and Ranjit Pal have been spotted in the area.
They have also been in touch with some known associates in villages along the Bengal-Jharkhand border. Sources pointed out that the state police, with assistance from other agencies, have collated a report and sent it to the headquarters of the concerned agencies. The report details the movement of these rebel leaders in villages of Purulia and West Midnapore. Since these villages are close to the Bengal-Jharkhand border, they have been able to move unnoticed for sometime. Sources further said that a group of rebels, under the leadership of Madan Mahato, commander of the Belpahari region in Purulia, was spotted in the Ranibandh area of Bankura three weeks back.
“Security agencies believe Mahato to be unwell. There is a high chance that he is hiding somewhere in the dense forest along the Bengal-Jharkhand border. Bikash and others must have contacted him to get a ground report,” a senior officer said. “We’re keeping an eye on such people who surrendered after Kishenji’s death. These people are a dedicated lot and it’s not unknown for them to return to the squad life after few years,” a police officer pointed out.