Dangerous liaisons

Behind the Maoist plot to assassinate Narendra Modi, as claimed by Maharashtra police

Red tide rising: the scene of a maoist attack in chhattisgarh’s sukma district in march. Nine CRPF personnel were killed in the attack | PTI

IN 2005, A Maoist commander called Nabin, who graduated from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, was gunned down by security forces when his team attacked a police station in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district. Nabin was well connected with students from the northeast. He helped Koteswara Rao aka Kishenji, the head of the military commission of the CPI (Maoist), to establish links with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). Kishenji and Nabin signed an agreement with the group in 1996. It was the first time that the Maoists collaborated with insurgent groups in the northeast. By 2009, it had grown into an extensive arrangement.

Prakash outlined a plan to assassinate Modi after the Bhima-Koregaon protests. He coordinated with the KCP to arrange arms and ammunition to assassinate Modi.

After Nabin’s death, another young Maoist took over his duties, and even assumed his name. He also added a tribal surname, Mech. His real name was Rituparno Goswami. A Brahmin from Assam’s Tinsukia district, he was Nabin’s junior at JNU. “Rituparno took Nabin’s name as he was his mentor,” said a former member of the CPI (Maoist). “Though he is from Assam, he does not have Mongoloid features.” While working underground, he took yet another name, Prakash.

He is known for his astuteness and his ability to connect with intellectuals. Like his mentor, Prakash, too, has extensive links with insurgent groups in the northeast. He established ties with the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) in Manipur after the NSCN(IM) severed ties with the Maoists following peace talks with the Central government.

Prakash made headlines recently after the Maharashtra Police accused him of masterminding a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to police sources, Prakash wrote and received several letters about Maoist action, including one that referred to Modi’s assassination. And, he remains the only key person named in the plot, who has eluded arrest. The police said Prakash outlined a plan to assassinate Modi after the Bhima-Koregaon protests. He coordinated with the KCP to arrange arms and ammunition to assassinate Modi the way the LTTE targeted former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Sources confirmed that the core committee of Manipur-based insurgent groups has approved arms consignments to be sent to Maharashtra during the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

When THE WEEK contacted the KCP, its leaders asked about our source of information. On being told that the confirmation came from the Maharashtra Police, the KCP chose not to respond. The police said they got the information while interrogating Maoist central committee member Ramanna, who was arrested in February from Gadchiroli in Maharashtra.

Ramanna had worked with Prakash as a member of the central regional bureau of the party. He was secretary of the Dandakaranya special zonal committee till 2016. A statement released by the Dandakaranya special zonal spokesperson Bikalpa called Ramanna’s arrest the “surrender of a betrayer”. The party accused Ramanna and his wife of greed and high ambition. “Ramanna wanted promotion to the politburo, which the leadership was not ready to grant him yet. He was trying to get out of the CPI (Maoist) and has often tried to surrender. We pacified him from time to time, but, at last, we failed because of his wife, who motivated him more than our party leaders,” said the statement, which was accessed by THE WEEK.

According to police sources, the Maoists incited the dalits to launch the Bhima-Koregaon movement and they were actively monitoring it. Prakash was the intermediary between the dalits and the Maoists. The police said they had documents showing that Prakash was in touch with several leftist intellectuals. He had met them in Delhi, Bhopal and Kolkata and stayed at their houses to discuss the possibility of a grand left unity. The police have the names, but they are yet to nab them because of the controversy created by the arrests on August 28.

What prompted the Maharashtra police to take action against the Bhima-Koregaon activists was that the dalit movement had started hurting Maratha pride, creating a major rift between the dalits and the Marathas. Earlier this year, a spokesperson for the Maoists, Mallojula Venugopal alias Abhay, said that although the Marathas had defeated the Mughals, they could not defeat the British army, of which the Mahar Regiment was a part.

In an affidavit submitted before the Supreme Court on September 5, the Maharashtra government said what happened in Bhima-Koregaon was an attempt “to play with the sentiments of a particular community”. It requested the court to allow custodial interrogation of the five activists. “The arrested people were involved in selecting and encouraging cadres to go underground..., mobilising and distributing money, facilitating selection and purchase of arms... and suggesting the routes and ways of smuggling such arms into India,” said the affidavit. “They are also found to be providing strategic inputs in furtherance of the objective of armed rebellion as per the strategic document of the banned organisation CPI (Maoist).”