I met surrendered Maoist Suchitra Mahato several times a few years back while working on my book, Out of War: Voices of Surrendered Maoists. When Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao indicated in an interview that Suchitra may have led to the encounter and killing of Maoist politburo member Koteswar Rao, alias Kishanji (in the Burisole forests of West Midnapore in November 2011), I decided to talk to Suchitra about this again.
In all our conversations earlier, she had repeatedly told me that she didn’t give away any information to the police that had led to Kishanji’s death. She had “officially” surrendered before the West Bengal government in March 2012, and months later, she took up a job as a home guard of the state police, rather reluctantly.
In a conversation yesterday, this is what Suchitra told me:
Some people from the party and some party ideologues and sympathisers like to believe that I had leaked information that led to the arrest of Kishanji. I just want to reiterate that I did not leak any information to anyone. Why should I have risked my life in the process? I had major injuries that took months to heal. I could have died myself, either right there or from these injuries, later.
The Maoists don’t even want to believe that I was really injured. That’s what Rahul [surrendered CPI(Maoist) state committee member Ranjit Pal], and his wife Anita too used to think. When I met them after their surrender, he told me, “We thought you had concocted a story that you were injured.” Then I showed them my injuries, and only then they believed.
If I really wanted to get Kishanji caught by the police, shouldn’t I have done that by being safe myself? I am still undergoing treatment, I have to take medicines regularly and go for check-ups. I can’t explain to anyone what my condition was in the first 15 days of my injury. No one has any idea about the pain I have gone through. Some villagers had offered me shelter after Kishanji was killed and I had escaped from the area. I don’t want to disclose their names and risk their lives, but a lot of people know. It is not so difficult to find out.
There was a boy, Mangal Mahato, with us when police were closing in on us. He managed to escape. He was with the Maoists after he fled, and there were reports of him having gone to the Saranda area and then being killed in an encounter in the Dalma Hills area (in Jharkhand). But I am not sure.
As far as I know, when Kishanji, I and Mongol were hiding, running away, taking shelter for sometime and fleeing again, some villagers had given away the information about our location to the police. Only the day before, police had nearly closed in on us. And all the while, policemen were tapping various telephone numbers of villagers in and around the Burisole forest.
And yet, I have to go on hearing all my life that I am responsible for Kishanji’s death. No matter what I say, people will go on accusing me. Even after I die, they will continue to say this. How can the Maoists investigate and find out what actually happened? Such investigation won’t be in-depth.
I have been asked by the police to not venture out, that my life is at risk and the Maoists can kill me. But I have been with the party for so long, why should I get killed by them? Why should they kill me when I haven’t done anything wrong?