Caesar Mandal, TNN | Nov 19, 2011, 02.59AM IST
KOLKATA: Jagori Baske's dramatic surrender before chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday has only added to the mystery that has surrounded the dreaded Maoist for most of her life.
When exactly did she surrender? Was it before the last assembly polls? Did Kolkata Police play a crucial role? How were Jagori and her husband, Maoist comrade Rajaram Soren, clad in crisp battle fatigues if they were on the run for months? And what is the role of renegade Maoist Gurucharan Kisku alias Marshall, Jagori's mentor?
These questions had the administrative circles abuzz all of Friday.
TOI has pieced together the chain of events that led to the most sensational surrender of a Maoist leader in Bengal.
It all started more than an year ago - July 2010, when the Left Front government announced its rehab offer for Maoists. For officers on the field, the instruction was clear - the government had heeded to their request for a surrender package and they had to show results. But getting a Maoist top gun to surrender was easier said than done.
Marshall was the first choice. A Dalma squad leader and one of the first Maoist recruits, he was named in the 2003 ambush of seven policemen in Bandwan but had been dumped by the rebels in 2007 for his reported "ideological deviation".
He was itching to get back at his former comrades after being shown the door. He first came in contact with the Jharkhand government-sponsored anti-Maoist forum and later with an IPS officer in West Midnapore (this officer is now with Kolkata Police).
Marshall was ready to work for police - and he did - but he was surprisingly reluctant to accept the surrender proposal.
Wily that he is, Marshall sensed that his steadfast refusal may trigger a bitter conflict with his police "handlers". Police, too, realised that they were the only ones protecting him from his former comrades, who were baying for his blood. Marshall then played his trump card. He assured his handlers of a prized catch - Jagori, the feared guerrilla he had groomed.
Jagori had been fiercely loyal to Marshall ever since she left her home in Purulia's Bakdoba village as a 16-year-old. Even in the Maoist fold, she had to pay a price for her devotion to her mentor even after he was expelled. Despite her "brilliance" in guerrilla tactics, her party didn't hesitate to throw her out for her continued relation with Marshall.
Deserted by her party and hounded by police, Jagori was in dire straits with her month-old infant when Marshall once again surfaced in her life offering help.
"Jagori never indulged in anti-party activities, ever, but she could never completely alienate herself from Marshall. It was a tough dilemma. We were contemplating taking her back in 2009," a senior Maoist leader had told TOI some time ago. This leader has been "missing" for the past year but if sources are to be believed, he is recuperating from a critical ailment in a police "safe house."
This isn't new to Bengal. It's said another elderly Maoist ideologue was cared for in a police safe house until he died of a chronic ailment.
Marshall, on his part, was well aware of the extent to which he could cash in on the Jagori bait. He held on to her in such a manner that it led to a delicate and protracted "negotiation" which continued for more than 11 months. Whether Jagori gave herself up to police or whether Marshall tipped police of her movements may always remain a mystery.
Incidentally, Jagori's comrade-in-arms Shova Mandi was intercepted by police in March 2010 on National Highway-6. She was then headed for Midnapore for treatment on a motorcycle with her husband Kamal Mahato. Mandi officially "surrendered" in August 2010.
Sources said that after initial counseling, Jagori reportedly stayed in a safe house on the outskirts of Kolkata, ringed by a police camp. She might have been debriefed by some Kolkata Police officers before being handed to the custody of the IB, say sources.
Maoists are usually very prompt in alerting the media should any of their cadres goes missing for a certain period. In Shova's case the rebels had issued one such statement long before her surrender. But in Jagori's case, there was no such statement. The dreaded rebel had been expelled and given up for good by her comrades.
Jagori's surrender may be the most dramatic yet, but it won't be the last. It wouldn't be surprising if in the next few days another Maoist couple - both of them feared squad members - also surrender. Negotiations are on to pull them in, say sources.