Kolkata: Posing as journalists, police sneaked in on Chhattradhar Mahato, chief of a Maoist-backed body at the forefront of the violent agitation in this trouble-torn belt of West Bengal, and arrested him Saturday, prompting the rebels to call a nationwide shutdown Oct 3.
Mahato, leader of the People`s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), was nabbed from Birka near the headquarters of Lalgarh block in West Midnapore district, Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Surajit Kar Purakayastha told IANS.
The elusive tribal leader had been giving a stream of interviews to newspapers and television channels ever since he went underground after the central and state governments launched the joint operation to flush out the Maoists who had virtually made areas in and around Lalgarh, about 200 km west of Kolkata, a "free zone" since November last year.
Two police officers, camouflaging themselves as journalists, went to the area where Mahato had agreed to give an interview to a select group of mediapersons.
They pounced on Mahato at an opportune time, as the journalists were taken aback at the sudden turn of events.
"This is a big success for the force. Arresting him was our prime aim," said West Midnapore district police superintendent Manoj Verma.
Mahato will be produced in court Sunday.
Following the arrests, irate Maoists tried to trigger a landmine blast in the Kantapahari area.
Later, Communist party of India-Maoist leader Kishanjee said their organisation has called a nationwide shutdown Oct 3.
Apart from protesting against the "unethical" arrest of Mahato, Kishanjee also voiced his anguish at the central government "refusing to give medical aid" to the outfit`s top leader Kobad Gandhi, who has a heart ailment.
Gandhi, in charge of spreading the banned CPI-Maoist party`s influence in urban areas, was arrested in New Delhi Sep 21.
Kishanjee said the shutdown was also against the "atrocities" by the security forces at Sundargarh and Koraput of Orissa, and the "torture" of locals by the CRPF`s elite unit Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) in Chhattisgarh.
He also protested against the central government`s plans to deploy special forces to tackle the Maoists.
Lalgarh has been on the boil since November when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.
Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals backed by Maoists launched an agitation, virtually cutting off the area from the rest of West Midnapore district.
As violence continued, the paramilitary forces and state police launched the operation, but till date the Maoists have been gunning down leaders and activists of the state`s ruling Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and tribals whom they dub as police informants.
Maoists are active in areas covered by 21 police stations in the state`s three western districts - West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.