RANCHI/KOLKATA: The police in Jharkhand’s East Singhbhum district on Sunday arrested one of the three prime accused in last month’s train sabotage, allegedly by Maoists, in West Bengal that killed 148 people, the police said.
Bapi Mahato was taken into custody from a guesthouse in the Adityapur area of Jamshedpur, senior superintendent of police, Mr Naveen Kumar told IANS over telephone from East Singhbhum. He is being interrogated, Mr Kumar said.
Bapi’s relative Bimal Mahato has also been arrested for sheltering him in Jharkhand till June 17, the police said. Bimal’s wife was let off after interrogation.
The police said Bapi Mahato checked into the guesthouse at 11.30 p.m. on June 17. He hardly spent three-four hours there and mostly stayed out.
A joint team of the Jharkhand and West Bengal police arrived at the guesthouse in mufti. Five policemen went to the room in which Mahato was staying and arrested him.
Police sources said they had been tracking Mahato’s mobile phone calls before nabbing him.
Mahato was a prominent leader of the militant wing of the West Bengal-based tribal body People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, West Bengal police officials said.
He is the fifth man to be arrested for the sabotage of rail tracks that led to the derailment of the Gyaneshwari Express on May 28. The derailed coaches, which had fallen on the adjoining track, were then hit by an oncoming goods train.
A resident of Rasua village, Mahato was the main organiser of the PCAPA’S Sidhu Kanu Gana Militia in the Guimara-Lalgeria panchayat area under Jhargram police station of West Midnapore district.
“We will hand him over to the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is probing the case,” the West Bengal Director-General of Police, Mr Bhupinder Singh told IANS in Kolkata.
The CBI on Thursday declared a reward of Rs 1 lakh for any information about Bapi Mahato and two other prime accused — Umakant Mahato of Banksole village and Asit Mahato of Krishnanagar village in West Midnapore district. Umakant and Asit are still at large.
Bapi Mahato is likely to be brought to Jhargram, the town nearest to the site of the tragedy that occurred between Sardiha and Khemasuli stations.
“We will bring him by Monday, depending on when we get the transit remand from the court,” a top police source said.
The West Bengal police’s criminal investigation department had initiated an inquiry after the incident, but the central government later asked the CBI to probe the matter following a demand from the Railway Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee.
The CBI took over the case on June 10.
While the CID had nabbed two people — Khagen Mahato and Samir Mahato — the CBI has arrested two other suspects, Hiralal Mahato and Bholanath Mahato.