Thursday, November 26, 2009

Red leader may have lived in Jamshedpur

Jayanta Gupta, TNN 26 November 2009, 11:12pm IST

JAMSHEDPUR: Could Koteswar Rao, alias Kishanji, have lived in Jamshedpur for some time before he joined the PWG? Intelligence officials in Jharkhand believe that the CPI(Maoist) leader, who plans and supervises operations in West Bengal, may have been an active member of the CPI(ML) in the steel city. At that time, people knew him as Gopal Rao.

"What struck us was the name Kishanji. This could have come from the name Gopal. According to information available with us, Gopal Rao was very active in the steel city after the Naxalite movement (1967-71) failed. He would move around in kurta-pyjamas, speaking in not so fluent Bengali. In fact, he may have picked up the language from Jamshedpur itself," an official said.

Agencies have already started questioning people who Gopal Rao may have been in contact with during his stay in Jamshedpur. Such people have said how Rao and his associates would talk of armed struggles going on in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and other parts of the country.

"These people would tell people that Charu Majumdar's vision would not fail. They explained how preparations were on for a greater armed struggle that would spread across the country. At that time, the CPI(ML) had an office in Sakchi. Rao is believed to have lived in the office itself and may have even got married to a Bengali woman. Another member of the group, who took up arms later, had also got married to a Bengali. The women were also CPI(ML) members," the official added.

At that time, the CPI(ML) was very active in places like Jamshedpur and Chaibasa. During the Naxalite movement, hundreds of youths were arrested from these places for their involvement. Officials suspect that some of those who joined the movement at that time may be leading the Maoists in various parts of the country today. One of them is allegedly the brother of a leader from West Bengal. There is also suspicion that many, like Rao, return to their roots at times, if only to cool their heels.

According to sources, Rao is supposed to have moved to Andhra Pradesh where he received armed training allegedly under guidance of the LTTE. He is supposed to have remained there for some years, passing on the training to other recruits, before moving north to lead actual operations.

During his stay at Jamshedpur, Rao would handle legal affairs of the party and also get in touch with lawyers to bail out arrested members. People in Jamshedpur who authorities met to get more information on the subject seem to remember Rao quite clearly. What has come as a surprise to officials is the kind of sympathy that people of the steel city have for the Maoists. Some of them even narrated the kind of oppression that villagers in nearby areas are subjected to, thanks to government apathy.

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